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Full text of "Plato's Symposium"

Plato 
Symposium 
trans. Benardete 
Apollodorus, In my own opinion, I am not unprepared for 
what you ask about; for just the other daymwhen I was on my 
way up to town from my home in Phaleron---one of my ac- 
quaintances spotted me a long way off from behind and called, 
playing with his call: "Phalerian," he said. "You there, 
Apollodorus, aren't you going to wait?" And I stopped and let 
him catch up. And he said, "Apoilodorus, why, it was just 
recently that I was looking for you; I had wanted to question you 
closely about Agathon's partyrathe one at which Socrates, 
Alcibiades, and the others were then present at dinner togetherinto 
question you about the erotic speeches. What were they? Some- 
one else who had heard about the. party from Phoenix the son of 
Philippus was telling me about it, and he said that you too knew. 
As a matter of fact, there wasn't anything he could say with 
certainty. So you tell me, for it is most just that you report the 
speeches of your comrade. But first," he said, "tell me, were 
you yourself present at this party or not?" And I said, "It really 
does seem as if there were nothing certain in what your infor- 
mant told you, if you believe that this party which you are asking 
about occurred so recently that I too was present." "That is 
indeed what I believed," he said. "But how could that be, 
G!aucon?" I said. "Don't you know that it has been many years 
since Agathon resided here, but that it is scarcely three years 
now that I have been spending my time with Socrates and have 
made it my concern on each and every day to know whatever he 
says or does? Before that, I used to run round and round aim- 
lessly, and though I believed I was doing something of impor- 
tance, I was more miserable than anyone in the world (no less 
than you are at this moment), for I believed' that everything was 
preferable to philosophy." And he said, "Don't mock me now, 
233 
234 PLATO' 
but tell me when this party did occur." And I said, "When we 
were still boys, at the time of Agathon's victory with his first 
tragedy, on the day after he and his choral dancers celebrated the 
victory sacrifice." "Oh," he said, "a very long time ago, it 
seems. But who told you? Was it Socrates himself? .... No, by 
Zeus," I said, "but the same one who told Phoenix. It was a 
certain Aristodemus, a Kydathenean, little and always unshod. 
He had been present at the party and, in my opinion, was the one 
most in love with Socrates at that time. Not, however, that I 
have not asked Socrates too about some points that I had heard 
from Aristodemus; and Socrates agreed to just what Aristodemus 
narrated." "Why, then," G!aucon said, "don't you tell me? 
The way to town, in any case, is as suitable for speaking, while 
we walk, as for listening." 
So as we walked, we talked together about these things; and 
so, just as I said at the start, I am not unprepared. If it must be 
told to you as we!!, that is what I must do. As for me, whenever 
I make any speeches on my own about philosophy or listen to 
othersmapart from my belief that I am benefitedmhow I enjoy 
it! But whenever the speeches are of another sort, particularly the 
speeches of the. rich and of moneymakers--your kind of talkm 
then just .as I am distressed, so do I pity your comrades, because 
you believe you are doing something of importance, but in fact 
it's all pointless. And perhaps you., in turn, believe that I am 
a wretch; and I believe you truly believe it. I, on the other hand, 
do not believe it about you, I know it. 
Comrade. You are always of a piece, Apollodorus, for you 
are always slandering yourself and others; and in my opinion you 
simply believe thatrestarting with yourself--everyone is misera- 
ble except Socrates. And how you ever got the nickname "Softy," 
I do not know, for you are always like this in your speeches, 
savage against yourself and others except Socrates. 
Apollodorus. My dearest friend, so it is plain as it can be, is 
it, that in thinking this about myself as well as you I am a raving 
lunatic? 
Comrade. It is not worthwhile, Apo!!odorus, to argue about 
this now; just do what we were begging you to do; tell what the 
speeches were. 
Apollodorus. Well, they were somewhat as followsrebut I 
shall just try to tell it to you from the beginning as Aristodemus 
told it. 
He said that Socrates met him freshly bathed and wearing 
SYMPOSIUM 235 
fancy slippers, which was not Socrates' usual way, and he asked 
Socrates where he was going now that he had become so beautiful.  
And' he said, "To dinner at Agathon's, for yesterday I 
stayed away from his victory celebration, in fear of the crowd, 
but I did agree to come today. It is just for this that I have got 
myself up so beautifullymthat beautiful I may go to a beauty. 
But you," he said, "how do you feel about going uninvited to 
dinner? Would you be willing to do so?" 
"And I said," he said," 'I shall do whatever you say.'" 
"Then follow," he said, "so that we may change and ruin 
the proverb, 'the good go to Agathon's feasts on their own.' 
Homer, after all, not only ruined it, it seems, but even commit- 
ted an outrage [hybris] on this proverb; for though he made 
Agamemnon an exceptionally good man in martial matters, and 
Menelaus a 'soft spearman,' yet when Agamemnon was mak- 
ing a sacrifice and a feast, he made Menelaus come to the dinner 
uninvited, an inferior to his better's." 
He said that when he heard this he said, "Perhaps I too 
shall run a risk, Socrates--perhaps it is not as you say, but as 
Homer says, a good-for-nothing going uninvited to a wise man's 
dinner. Consider the risk in bringing me. What will you say in 
your defense? For I shall not agree that I have come uninvited 
but shall say that it was at your invitation." 
"With the two of us going on the way together, "2 he said, 
';we shall deliberate on what we shall say. Well, let us go." 
He said that once they had finished their conversation along 
these lines, they went on. And as they were making their way 
Socrates somehow turned his attention to himself and was left 
behind, and when Aristodemus waited for him, he asked him to 
go on ahead. When Aristodemus got to Agathon's house, he 
found the door open, and he said something ridiculous happened 
to him there. Straight off, a domestic servant met him and 
brought him to where the others were reclining, and he found 
them on the point of starting dinner. So Agathon, of course, saw 
him at once, and said, "Aristodemus, you have come at a fine 
'The word beautiful (kaios). which is distinct from good (agathos), also means 
fair, fine, and noble; and everything outstanding in body, mind, or action can be so 
designated. What is lovable, either to sight or mind, is beautiful. It is the Greek term for 
what is moral, with the qualification that it designates what is beyond the sphere of 
obligation and duty, what one cannot expect everyone to do. It has a higher rank than 
the just. 
2'Soft spearman' is from Iliad, 17.587; the uninvited Menelaus from 2.408: and 
"With the two of us going on the way together" from 10.224. 
236 PLATO SYMPOSIUM 237 
time to share a dinner. If you have come for something else, put 
it off for another time, as I was looking for you yesterday to 
invite you but could not find you. But how is it that you are not 
bringing our Socrates?" 
"And I turn around," he said, "and do not see Socrates 
following anywhere. So I said that I myself came with Socrates, 
on his invitation to dinner here." 
"It is a fine thing for you to do," Agathon said, "but 
where is he'?" 
"He was just coming in behind me. I am wondering myself 
where he might be." 
"Go look, boy," Agathon said, "and bring Socrates in. 
And you, Aristodemus," he said, "lie down beside Eryximachus." 
And he said the boy washed him so he could lie down; and 
another of the boys came back to report, "Your Socrates has 
retreated into a neighbor's porch and stands there, and when I 
called him, he was unwilling to come in." 
"That is strange," Agathon said. "Call him and don't let 
him go." 
And Aristodemus said that he said, "No, no, leave him 
alone. That is something of a habit with him. Sometimes he 
moves off and stands stock still wherever he happens to be. He 
will come at once, I suspect. So do not try to budge him, but 
leave him alone." 
"Well, that is what we must do, if it is your opinion," he 
said Agathon said. "Well now, boys, feast the rest of us. Though 
you always serve in any case whatever you want to whenever 
someone is not standing right over you, still now,. in the belief 
that I, your master, as much as the others, has been invited 
to dinner by you, serve in such a way that we may praise you." 
After this, he said, they dined; but Socrates did not come 
in, and though Agathon often ordered that Socrates be sent for, 
Aristodemus did not permit it. Then Socrates did come in-- 
he had lingered as long as was usual for him--when they 
were just about in the middle of dinner. Then he said that 
Agathon, who happened to be lying down at the far end alone, 
said, "Here, Socrates, lie down alongside me, so that by my 
touching you, I too may enjoy the piece of wisdom that just 
occurred to you while you were in the porch. It is plain that you 
found it and have it, for otherwise you would not have come 
away beforehand." 
And Socrates sat down and said, "It would be a good thing, 
Agathon, if wisdom were the sort of thing that flows from the 
fuller of us into the emptier, just by our touching one another, as 
the water in wine cups flows through a wool thread from the 
fuller to the emptier. For if wisdom too is like that, then I set a 
high price on my being placed alongside you, for I believe I shall 
be filled from you with much fair wisdom. My own may turn out 
to be a sorry sort of wisdom, or disputable like a dream; but your 
own is brilliant and capable of much development, since it has 
flashed out so intensely from you while you are young; and 
yesterday it became conspicuous among more than thirty thou- 
sand Greek witnesses." 
"You are outrageous, Socrates," Agathon said. "A little 
later you and I will go to court about our wisdom, with Dionysus 
as judge, but now first attend to dinner." 
After this, he said, when Socrates had reclined and dined 
with the rest, they made libations, sang a song to the god and did 
all the rest of the customary rites, 3 and then turned to drinking. 
Then Pausanias, he said, began to speak somewhat as follows. 
"All right, men," he said. "What will' be the easiest way for us 
to drink? Now I tell you that I am really in a very bad way from 
yesterday's drinking, and I need a rest. I suspect many of you do 
too, for you were also here yesterday. So consider what would 
be the easiest way for us to drink." 
Aristophanes then said, "That is a good suggestion, Pausanias, 
to arrange our drinking in some easier way, for I too am one of 
yesterday's soaks." 
Eryximachus, he said, the son of Akoumenos, heard them 
out and then said, "What a fine thing you say. But I still have 
need to hear from one of you--from Agathon---how set he is on 
heavy drinking." 
"Not at all," Agathon said, "nor do I have the strength." 
"We seem to be in luck," Eryximachus said, "tomyself, 
Aristodemus, Phaedrus, and those heremif you who have the 
greatest capacity for drink have now given up, for we are always 
incapable. And I leave Socrates out of accountas he can go 
either way, he will be content with whatever we do. Now, since 
in my opinion none of those present is eager to drink a lot of 
wine, perhaps I should be less disagreeable were ! to speak the 
3e customary rites at the end of a banquet are six in number: 1) a libation of 
unmixed wine to agathos &timon (the "good Genius"); 2) the clearing of the tables; 3) 
the washing of the hands; 4) the distribution of wreaths among the guests; 5) three 
libations, one each to Zeus Olympus and the Olympian gods, to the heroes, and to Zeus 
Sorer; 6) the singing of a song to the god. 
238 PL^TO 
truth about what drunkenness is. For I believe this has become 
quite plain to me from the art of medicine. Drunkenness is a hard 
thing for human beings; and as far as it is in my power, I should 
neither be willing to go on drinking nor to advise another to 'do 
so, particularly if he still has a headache from yesterday's 
debauch." 
"Well, as for myself," he said Phaedrus the Myrrhinousian 
said, interrupting, "I am used to obeying you, particularly in 
whatever you say about medicine; and now the rest will do so 
too, if they take good counsel." 
When they heard this, all agreed not to make the present 
party a drinking bout, but for each to drink as he pleased. 
"Since, then, it has been decreed," Eryximachus said, 
"that each is to drink as much as he wants to, and there is to be 
no compulsion about it, I next propose to dismiss the flute girl 
who just came in and to let her flute for herself, or, if she wants, 
for the women within, while we consort with each other today 
through speeches. And as to what sort of speeches, I am willing, 
if you want, to make a proposal." 
All then agreed that this was what they wanted and asked 
him to make his proposal. Eryximachus then s,aid, "The begin- 
ning of my speech is in the manner of Euripides Melanippe, ' for 
the tale that I am about to tell is not my own, but Phaedrus' here. 
On several occasions Phaedrus has said to me in annoyance, 
'Isn't it awful, Eryximachus, that hymns and paeans have been 
made by the poets for other gods, but for Eros, who is so great 
and important a god, not one of the many poets there have been 
has ever made even a eulogy? And if you want, consider, in their 
turn, the good Sophists, they write up in prose praises of Heracles 
and others, as the excellent Prodicus does. Though you need not 
wonder at this, for I have even come across a volume of a wise 
man in which salt got a marvelous puff for its usefulness, and 
you might find many other things of the kind with eulogies. So 
they employ much zeal in things like that, yet to this day not one 
human being has dared to hymn Eros in a worthy manner; but so 
great a god lies in neglect.' Now, Phaedrus, in my opinion, 
speaks well in this regard. So, as I desire to make a comradely 
loan to please him, it is, in my opinion, appropriate for those of 
nThe line from Euripides' (mostly lost) Melanippe is, "The tale is not my own but 
from my mother"; and the fragment then goes on: "how sky and earth were one shape; 
but when they were separated from one another, they gave birth to everything and sent 
them up into the light, trees, birds, wild beasts, those the salt sea nourishes, and the race 
of mortals." 
SYMPOSIUM 239 
us who are now here to adorn the god. And if you share in my 
opinion, we should find enough of a pastime in speeches. For it 
is my opinion that each of us, starting on the left, should recite 
the fairest praise of Eros that he can, and Phaedrus should be the 
first to begin, inasmuch as he is lying on the head couch and is 
also the father of the argument." 
"No one," Socrates said, "will cast a vote against you, Eryxi- 
machus. For I would surely not beg off, as I claim to have expert 
knowledge of nothing but erotics; nor would Agathon and Paus- 
anias beg off, to say nothing of Aristophanes, whose whole activity 
is devoted to Dionysus and Aphrodite. And none of the others I 
see here would refuse either. And yet it is not quite fair for those 
of us who lie on the last couches; but if those who come first 
speak in a fine and adequate way, we shall be content. Well, good 
luck to Phaedrus then. Let him make a start and eulogize Eros." 
All the others then approved and urged it as Socrates had 
done. Now, Aristodemus scarcely remembered all that each and 
every one of them said, and I in turn do not remember all that he 
said; but I shall tell you the noteworthy points of those speeches 
that, in my opinion,' most particularly deserved remembering. 
First of all, as I say, he said that Phaedrus began his speech 
at somewhat the following point: that Eros was a great and 
wondrous god among human beings as well as gods, and that 
this was so in many respects and not least in the matter of birth. 
"For the god to be ranked among the oldest is a mark of honor," 
he said, "and hem is the proof: the parents of Eros neither exist 
nor are they spoken of by anyone, whether prose author or poet; 
but Hesiod says that Chaos came firstin 
Then thereafter 
Broad-bmasted Earth, always the safe seat of all, 
And Eros. 5 
After Chaos, he says, them came to be these two, Earth and Eros. 
And Parmenides says that Genesis, 
First of all gods, devised Eros. 
'Hesiod, Theogony, lines 116, 117, 120. Our manuscripts of Hesiod read, after 
117, "of all immortals, who hold the tops of snowy Olympus [118], and gloomy 
Tartarus in the recesses of the broad-wayed Earth [119]." Line 118 is also not read by 
other sources; and the Hesiod scholium says that line 119 is athetized. After "Eros" in 
line 120, Hesiod goes on: "who is the most beautiful among the immortal gods, the 
dissolver of care, who overpowers the mind and thoughtful counsel in the breast of all 
gods and human beings." 
240 PLATO 
Akousilaus agrees with Hesiod as well. So there is an agree- 
ment in many sources that Eros is among the oldest. And as 
he is the oldest, we have him as the cause of the greatest goods, 
for I can hardly point to a greater good for someone to have from 
youth onward than a good lover, and for a lover, a beloved. For 
that which should guide human beings who are going to live 
fairly throughout their lives can be implanted by neither blood 
ties, nor honors, nor wealth, nor anything else as beautifully as 
by love. Now what do I say this is? It is shame in the face of 
shameful things and honorable ambition in the face of beautiful 
things; for without them neither city nor private person can 
accomplish great and beautiful deeds. So I assert that in the case 
of any real man who loves, were it to come to light that he was 
either doing something shameful or putting up with it from 
another out of cowardice and without defending himself, he 
would not be as pained on being observed by either his father, 
his comrades, or anyone else as by his beloved. We observe that 
this same thing holds in the case of the beloved; he is exception- 
ally shamed before his lovers whenever he is seen to be involved 
in something shameful. So if there were any possibility that a 
city or an army could be composed of lovers and beloveds, then 
there could be no better way for them to manage their own city; 
for they would abstain from all that is shameful and be filled 
with love of honor before one another. And besides, were they to 
do battle alongside one another, then even a few of this sort 
would win over just about all human beings; for a real man in 
love would of course far less prefer to be seen by his beloved 
than by all the rest when it comes to deserting his post or throw- 
ing away his weapons; he would choose to be dead many times 
over before that happened. And, to say nothing of leaving behind 
one's beloved or not coming to his aid when he is in danger, 
there is no one so bad that, once the god Eros had entered him, he 
would not be directed toward virtueinto the point where he is 
like one who is best by nature: And simply, as Homer said, 'the 
strength that the god breathed '{' into some of the heroes, Eros 
supplies from himself to lovers. 
"And what is more, lovers are the only ones who are 
willing to die for the sake of another; and that is not only true of 
real men but of women as well. Alcestis, the daughter of Pelias, 
offers a sufficient testimony for Greeks on behalf of this argu- 
ment. She alone was willing to die on behalf of her husband, 
6At Iliad, 10.482, Athena breathes strength into Diomedes, and at 15.262 Apollo 
does the same for Hector. 
SYMPOSIUM 241 
though his father and mother were alive; but through her love she 
so much surpassed his parents in friendship that she showed 
them up as alien to their own son and only related to him in 
name. Her performance of this deed was thought to be so noble in 
the opinion not only of human beings but of the gods as well 
that, although there have been many who have accomplished 
many noble deeds, the gods have given to only a select number 
of them the guerdon of sending up their souls again from Hades, 
and hers they did send up in admiring delight at her deed. So 
gods, too, hold in particular esteem the zeal and virtue that 
pertain to love. Orpheus, the son of Oeagrus, they sent back 
from Hades unfulfilled; and though they showed him a phantom 
of his wife, for whom he had come, they did not give her very 
self to him, because it was thought he was soft, like the lyre 
player he was, and had not dared to die for love like Alcestis, 
but contrived to go into Hades alive. Consequently, they im- 
posed a punishment on him, and made him die at the hands of 
women, and did not honor him as they had Achilles, the son of 
Thetis. For Achilles they sent away to the Isles of the Blest, 
because, though he had learned from his mother that he would be 
killed if he killed Hector, and that if he did not, he would return 
home and die in old age, still he dared to choose to come to the 
aid of his lover Patroclus; and with his vengeance accomplished, 
he dared not only to die on his behalf but to die after him who 
had died. On this account, the gods were particularly impressed 
and gave him outstanding honors, because he had made so much 
of his lover. Aeschylus talks nonsense in claiming that Achilles 
was in love with Patroclus (rather than the other way around), 
for Achilles was more beautiful than not only Patroclus but all 
the other heroes as well; and besides, he was unbearded, and 
thirdly, far younger than Patroclus, as Homer says. 7 Well, any- 
how, though the gods really hold in very high esteem that virtue 
which concerns love, they wonder, admire, and confer bene- 
fits even more when the beloved has affection for the lover than 
when the lover has it for the beloved. A lover is a more divine 
thing than a beloved, for he has the god within him. This is the 
reason why they honored Achilles more than Alcestis and sent 
him to the Isles of the Blest. 
"So this is how I assert that Eros is the oldest, most 
honorable, and most competent of the gods with regard to the 
acquisition of virtue and happiness by human beings both when 
living and dead." 
7Homer. Iliad. 2.673: !1.786. 
242 PLATO 
He said that Phaedrus made some such speech, and after 
Phaedrus there were some others that he scarcely could recall; he 
passed them over and told of Pausanias' speech. He said that 
Pausanias said, "Phaedrus, in my opinion it is not noble the way 
the argument has been proposed to us-commanding us to eulo- 
gize Eros in so unqualified a fashion. For were Eros one, it 
would be noble, but as it is, it is not noble, for he is not one; and 
as he is not one, it is more correct that it be declared beforehand 
which Eros is to be praised. So first ! shall try to set the record 
straight, to point out the Eros who is to be praised, and then to 
praise him in a manner worthy of the god. We all know that 
there is no Aphrodite without Eros; and were she one, Eros 
would be one; but since there are two Aphrodites, it is necessary 
that there be two Erotes as well. Who would deny that there are 
two goddesses? One surely is the elder and has no mother, the 
daughter of Uranos, the one to whom we apply the name Uranian; 
the other is younger and the daughter of Zeus and Dione, the one 
we call Pandemus. 8 So it is necessary that the Eros who is a 
fellow worker with one correctly be called Pandemus, and the 
other one, Uranian. Now all gods must be praised, but one must 
still try to say what has been allotted to each god. Every action is 
of the following sort: When being done in terms of itself, it is 
neither noble nor base. For example, what we are now doing, 
either drinking, singing, or conversing, none of these things is in 
itself a noble thing, only in terms of how it is done in the doing 
of it does it turn out to be the sort of thing that it is. For if it is 
done nobly and correctly, it proves to be noble, and if incorrectly, 
base. So, too, in the case of loving and Eros, for Eros as a whole is 
not noble nor deserving of a eulogy, but only that Eros who pro- 
vokes one to love in a noble way. 
"Now the Eros who belongs to Aphrodite Pandemus is truly 
pandemian and acts in any sort of way. And here you have the 
one whom good-for-nothing human beings have as their love. 
Those who are of the same sort as this Eros are, first of all, no 
less in love with women than with boys; secondly, they are in 
love with their bodies rather than their souls; and thirdly, they 
are in love with the stupidest there can be, for they have an eye 
only to the act and are unconcerned with whether it is noble or 
not. That is how it happens that it turns out for them, however it 
turns out, with the same likelihood of its being good as the 
SPandernus, which is a cult title, literally means "common to all the people" and 
does not necessarily mean something vulgar and base. Pandemian has the same meaning. 
SYMPOSIUM 243 
opposite. For Eros Pandemus depends on the Aphrodite who is 
far younger than the other goddess, and who partakes in her birth 
of female as well as of male. But the other Eros is of Uranian 
Aphrodite, who, first of all, does not partake of female but only 
of male (and this is the love of boys); and secondly, is the elder 
and has no part in outrage. That is how it comes about that those 
inspired by this kind of love turn to the male, with an affection 
for that which is naturally more vigorous and has more sense. 
And one might recognize in pederasty itself those who have been 
prompted purely by this kind of love; for they do not love boys 
except when boys start having sense, and that is close to the time 
when the beard first appears. For those who start loving a boy at 
this point in time are in a position I believe to be with him and 
live with him for their whole life and not once they have 
deceived and seized a young and foolish boy--to laugh at him 
and then run away to another. There should have been a law as 
well to prohibit the loving of boys, in order that a lot of zeal 
would not have been wasted for an uncertain result; for it is not 
clear where the perfection of boys has its end with regard to the 
vice and virtue of both soul and body. Now, the good willingly 
lay down this law upon themselves, but there should have been 
applied the same sort of compulsory prohibition to those pandemian 
lovers, just as we compel them as far as we can not to love 
freeborn matrons. For here you have those who have made 
pederasty a disgrace, so that some have the nerve to say that it is 
shameful to gratify lovers. They say it is shameful with an eye to 
those pandemian lovers, observing their impropriety and injus- 
tice, since surely any action whatsoever that is done in an orderly 
and lawful way would not justly bring reproach. 
"Now in general the law about love in other cities is easy to 
understand, for it has been simply determined; but the law here 
and in Sparta is complicated. In Elis and among the Boeotians, 
and where they are not wise in speaking, the gratification of 
lovers has been unqualifiedly legalized as noble, and no one, 
whether young or old, would say that it is shameful. This is so, I 
suspect, in order that they might have no trouble in trying to 
persuade the young by speech, because they are incapable of 
speaking. In Ionia, on the other hand, and in many other places 
(wherever they live under barbarians), it has been customarily 
held to be shameful. In the eyes of barbarians, on account of their 
tyrannies, pederasty as well as philosophy and the love of gym- 
nastics is shameful; for I suspect that it is not to the advantage of 
the rulers that great and proud thoughts be engendered among 
244 PLATO 
their subjects, any more than strong friendships and associations. 
It is precisely this that love, as well as all these other things, 
especially tends to implant. And the tyrants here [in Athens] 
actually learned this by deed; for the love of Aristogeiton and the 
friendship of Harmodius, once it became firm, dissolved the 
tyrants' rule. 9 So wherever it has been laid down as shameful to 
gratify lovers, it has been through the vice of those who have 
done so the hankering after more on the part of the rulers, and 
the lack of manliness on the pan of their subjects; and wherever 
the gratifying of lovers has been held to be a fine thing without 
qualification, it has been through the slothfulness of soul of those 
who have so ordained. But here [in Athens] there are much finer 
customs than elsewhere; yet just as I said, they are not easy to 
understand. Let one just reflect that it is said to be a finer thing. 
to love openly than in secret; and panicularly to love the noblest 
and best, even if they are uglier than others; and again, that 
everyone enthusiastically encourages the lover, and not as if he 
were doing anything shameful; and if a lover makes a successful 
'capture, it is thought to be fine, and if he fails, shameful; and 
that, for making an attempt at seizure, the law grants the lover 
the opportunity to be praised for doing amazing deeds. If one 
dared to do any of these deeds in pursuing and wishing to 
accomplish anything else whatsoever except this, one would reap 
the greatest reproaches leveled against philosophy. For if, in 
wanting to take money from someone, or to take a governmental 
office, or any other position of power, one were willing to act 
just as lovers do toward their belovedmmaking all sorts of 
supplications and beseechings in their requests, swearing oaths, 
sleeping at the doors of their beloveds, and being willing to 
perform acts of slavishness that not one slave would--he would 
be checked from acting so by his enemies as much as by his 
friends, the former reproaching him for his flattefies and servili- 
ties, the latter admonishing him and feeling ashamed on his 
behalf. But if the lover does all of this, there is a grace upon 
him; and the law allows him to act without reproaching him, on 
the ground that he is attempting to carry through some exceed- 
ingly fine thing; and what is most dreadful, as the many say, is 
that, if he swears and then &pans from his oath, for him alone 
there is pardon from the godsmfor they deny that an oath in sex 
is an oath. Thus the gods and human beings have made every 
opportunity available to the lover, as the law here states. Now on 
°Aristogeiton was the lover of Harmodius, with whom he slew Pisistratus' son 
Hipparchus in 514 s.c. It did not, however, end the tyranny but made it harsher. 
SYMPOSIUM 245 
these grounds one might suppose that it is customarily held to be 
a very fine thing in this city both to love and for lovers to have 
friends. But on the other hand, when fathers set attendants in 
charge of the beloveds and prohibit them from conversing with 
their lovers, and the attendant has this as a standing order, and 
the beloved's contemporaries and comrades blame him if they 
see anything like this going on; and the elders, in turn, do not 
stand in the way of those who cast reproaches or abuse them on 
the grounds that they are speaking incorrectlythen, if one 
glances in this direction, one would believe that such a thing is 
customarily held to be most shameful. This is to be explained, I 
believe, as follows. The matter is not simple; and, as was said at 
the start, it is neither noble nor base in itself, but if nobly done, 
noble, and if basely done, base. Now, it is base to gratify one 
who is no good and to do so in a bad way; while it is noble to 
gratify the good and to do so in a noble way. It is the pandemian 
lover who is no good, the one in love with the body rather than 
with the soul. He is not even, for example, a lasting lover, 
because he is in love with a thing that is not lasting either. As 
soon as the bloom of the body fadeswhich is what he was in 
love with'he is off and takes wing,' having made a foul shame 
of many speeches and promises. But he who is in love with a 
good character remains throughout life, for he is welded to what 
is lasting. So our law, in good and noble fashion, really wants to 
test these and to have the beloved gratify one group of lovers and 
escape from the others. On account of this it exhorts lovers to 
pursue and beloveds to flee, setting up a contest so that there may 
be a test as to which group the lover belongs and to which the 
beloved. And because of this, first, to let oneself be caught too 
quickly is customarily held shameful, since it is precisely the 
passing of time that is thought to test many things nobly; and 
secondly, to be caught by money and political power is shame- 
ful, regardless of whether a hurt humbles the beloved and pre- 
vents him from resisting, or a benefit consisting of money or 
political favors prevents him from feeling contempt; for neither 
money nor political favors are thought to be stable or lasting, to 
say nothing of the fact that in the natural course of things no 
noble and generous friendship comes out of them. So there is 
only one way left according to our law, if a beloved is to gratify 
a lover in a fine way. For just as we have a law that in the case 
of lovers to be enslaved willingly in any slavery to the beloved is 
agreed not to be flattery nor a matter of reproach, so too there is 
only one other willing enslavement that is not a matter of re- 
246 
THE DIALOGUES OF PLATO 
proach. This is the enslavement regarding virtue; for it is cus- 
tomarily held by us that if anyone is willing to devote his care to 
someone .in the belief that he will be better because of him, 
either in regard to some kind of wisdom or any other part of 
virtue whatsoever, this willing enslavement is not disgraceful nor 
is it flattery. So these two laws (the law about pederasty and the 
law about philosophy and the rest of virtue) must contribute to 
the same end if it is going to turn out that a beloved's gratifica- 
tion of a lover is noble. For whenever lover and beloved come to 
the same point, each with a law, the one, in serving a beloved 
who has granted his favors, would justly serve in anything; and 
the other, in assisting him who is making him wise and good, 
would justly assist. And the one is able to contribute to prudence 
and the rest of virtue, while the other stands in need of them for 
the acquisition of education and the rest of wisdom. Then and 
only thenmwhen these laws converge does it result that a 
beloved's gratification of his lover is noble; but in any other 
circumstance it is not. Even to be deceived in this regard is no 
disgrace; but in all other cases, whether one is 'deceived or not, it 
does involve disgrace. If someone granted his favors to a lover 
for the sake of wealth because he thought him rich, and then 
were deceived and got no money when the lover was found to be 
poor, it is no less a disgrace; for a beloved of that sort is thought 
to display his very self as one who for the sake of money would 
serve anyone in anything, and this is not noble. So along the same 
line of argument, were someone to grant his favors because he 
thought that his lover was good and that he himself would be 
better through his friendship with this lover, then even if his 
lover'is found to be bad and without virtue, the deception is 
noble all the same. For he too is thought to have made plain 
what holds in his own case--that strictly for the sake of virtue 
and of becoming better he would show his total zeal in 
everything, and this is the noblest thing of all. Thus, for the sake 
of virtue alone is it wholly noble to grant one's favors. This is 
the love' of the Uranian goddess, and it is Uranian and very 
worthwhile for both city and private men, for it compels both the 
lover himself and the beloved--each in his own caseinto exer- 
cise much concern for virtue. All the other loves are of the other 
goddess, the pandemian. Here, Phaedrus," he said, "you have my 
extemporary contribution to Eros." 
With Pausanias' pausationmthe wise teach me to talk in 
such balanced phrases---Aristodemus said that it was Aristopha- 
nes' turn to speak; however, he had just got the hiccups (from 
SYMPOSIUM 247 
satiety or something else) and was unable to speak, but he did 
saysthe doctor Eryximachus was lying on the couch next to 
him"Eryximachus, it 'is only just that you either stop my 
hiccups or speak on my behalf until I do stop." And Eryximachus 
said, "Well, I shall do both. I shall talk in your turn, and you, 
when you stop hiccuping, in mine. And while I am speaking, 
see if by holding your breath for a long time, you make the 
hiccups stop; but if they do not, gargle with water. And if they 
prove very severe, take something with which you might irritate 
your nose, and sneeze; and if you do this once or twice, even if 
the hiccups are severe, they will stop." "Go ahead and speak," 
Aristophanes said. "I shall do the rest." 
Then Eryximachus spoke. "Well, in my opinion, since 
Pausanias made a fine start to his speech but did not adequ- 
ately complete it, it is necessary for me to try to put a 
complete end to the argument. Inasmuch as Eros is double, it is, 
in my opinion, a fine thing to divide him; but that he .presides not 
only over the souls of human beings in regard to the beautiful but 
also in regard to many other things and in other cases--the 
bodies of all the animals as well as those things that grow in the 
earth, and just about all the things that are--that, in my opinion, 
I have come to see from medicine, our art. For how great and 
wondrous the god is in his comprehensive aims, both in terms of 
human things and in terms of.divine things! I shall begin my 
speech with medicine, so that we may venerate that art as well. 
The nature of bodies has this double Eros, for the health and the 
sickness of the body are by agreement different and..dissimilar; 
and the dissimilar desires and loves dissimilar things. Now, there 
is one love that presides over the healthy state, and another over 
the sickly. Just as' Pausanias was saying, it is a fine thing to gratify 
those who are good among human beings and disgraceful to gratify 
the intemperate, so too, in the case of men's bodies taken by them- 
selves is it a fine and needful thing to gratify the good and 
healthy things of each body (this is what has the name 'the 
medical'); but it is shameful to gratify the bad and sickly things, 
and one has to abstain from favoring them, if one is to be 
skilled. For the art of medicine is, to sum it up, the expert 
knowledge of the erotics of the body in .regard to repletion and 
evacuation; and he who diagnostically discriminates in these 
things between the noble and base love is the one most skilled in 
medicine; while he who induces changes, so as.to bring about 
the acquisition of one kind of love in place of the other, and 
248 PLATO SYMPOSIUM 249 
who, in whatever things where there is no love but there needs 
must be, has the expert knowledge to instill it, or to remove it 
from those things in which it is [but should not be], would be a 
good craftsman. For he must, in point of fact, be able to make 
the things that are most at enmity in the body into friends and to 
make them love one another. The most opposite things are the 
most at enmity: cold and hot, bitter and sweet, dry and moist, 
and anything of the sort. Our ancestor-Asklepios, who had the 
expert knowledge to instill love and unanimity into these things--as 
the poets here assert and as I am convinced is so--put together 
our art. Not only medicine, as I say, is entirely captained by this 
god, but likewise gymnastics and farming. And it is plain to 
anyone who pays the slightest attention that music is also on the 
same level as thesemas perhaps Heracleitus too wants to say, 
though as far as his actual words go, what he says is not fine. 
For he says that the one 'alone in differing with itself agrees with 
itself,' 'as is the harmony of lyre and bow. '° It is a lot of 
nonsense to affirm that a harmony differs with itself or is com- 
posed of still differing things. But perhaps he wanted to say that, 
from the prior differences between the high and the low, there 
arises from their later agreement a harmony by means of the art 
of music; for there surely would no longer be a harmony from 
high and low notes while they were differing with each other; for 
harmony is consonance, and consonance is a kind of agreement. 
But it is impossible to derive agreement from differing things as 
long as they are differing; and it is impossible, in turn, to fit 
together the differing or nonagreeingmjust as rhythm arises from 
the fast and the slow, from their prior state of difference and 
their subsequent agreement. Here, music inserts agreement in all 
these things (just as, there, medicine does) as it instills mutual 
love and unanimity; and music, in turn, is expert knowledge of 
the erotics of harmony and rhythm. And in the simple constitu- 
tion of harmony and rhythm it is not at all hard to diagnose the 
erotics, for the double eros is not yet present there; but whenever 
rhythm and harmony have to be employed in regard to human 
beings, either by making rhythm and harmony (what they call 
lyric poetry) or by using correctly the songs and meters that have 
been made (what has been called education), it is difficult and a 
good craftsman is needed. For the same argument returns hereto 
I°The complete fragment (Diels-Kramz) runs: "They do not know how it [presumably 
the one] in differing with itself agrees with itself: a counterturning fitting together 
[harmony] as that of bow and lyre." "Counter-straining" is an old variant for "counter- 
turning." 
namely, that decent human beings must be gratified, as well as 
those who are not as yet decent, so that they might become more 
decent; and the love of the decent must be preserved. And this 
love is the beautiful one, the Uranian, the Eros of the Uranian 
Muse. But the pandemian one is Polyhymnia's, which must, 
whenever it is applied, be applied cautiously, in order that it might 
harvest its own pleasure but not instill any i'ntemperancemjust as 
in our art it is a large order to employ in a fair way the desires 
that cluster around the art of making delicacies so as to harvest 
their pleasure without illness. And in general, in music, in 
medicine, and in all other thingsthe human and the divine 
each Eros must be watched as far as practicable; for both of the 
Erotes are present in these things. The composition of the sea- 
sons of the year, for example, is also full of both these Erotes; 
and whenever the hot and the cold, and the dry and the moist, 
which I mentioned before, obtain decent love for each other and 
accept a moderate harmony and mixture, they come bearing 
good seasonablehess and health to human beings and to the rest 
of the animals and plants and commit no injustice. But whenever 
Eros with his hybris proves to be too strong with regard to the 
seasons of the year, he corrupts and commits injustice against 
many things. For plagues as well as many other diseases are 
wont to arise for wild beasts and plants from things like that. 
Frosts, for example, and hailstorms and blights arise from the 
greediness and disorderliness of such erotic 'things in relation to 
one another; and the science of these erotic things in regard to 
the revolutions of stars and seasons of the years is called astron- 
omy. Furthermore, all the sacrifices and things over which divi- 
nation presides--these are concerned with the communing of 
gods and human beings with one another--involve almost noth- 
ing else but the protection and healing of Eros. For impiety as a 
whole is wont to arise if one does not gratify the decent Eros and 
honor and venerate him in every deed, but instead gratifies and 
honors the other one, in matters that concern parents, both living 
and dead, and gods. And so it is, accordingly, that divination is 
charged with the overseeing and healing of lovers; and divina- 
tion, in turn, is the craftsman of friendship between gods and 
human beings, since it has expert knowledge of human erotics, 
as far as erotics has to do with sacred law and piety. 
"This is the great and overwhelming power that Eros as a 
whole has (and indeed it is rather close to total power); but the 
Eros concerned with good things, consummately perfected with 
250 PLATO 
moderation and justice, among us and among gods, this has the 
greatest power and provides us with every kind of happiness, 
making us able to associate with one another and to be friends 
even with the gods who are stronger than we are. Now, perhaps 
in praising Eros I too am omitting many things; but 1 have done 
that unwillingly. For if I did omit anything, it is your job, 
Aristophanes, to fill it in; or if you intend to make a different 
eulogy of the god, proceed to do so, since you have stopped 
hiccuping." 
He then said that Aristophanes accepted and said, "It has 
stopped, to be sure; not, however, before sneezing had been 
applied to it. So I wonder at the orderly decency of the body 
desiring such noises and garglings as a sneeze is; for my hiccup- 
ing stopped right away as soon as I applied the sneeze to it." 
And Eryximachus said, "My good Aristophanes, look at 
what you are doing. You have made [us] laugh just as you were 
about to speak; and you compel me to be a guardian of your own 
speech, lest you ever say anything laughable--though you did 
have the chance to speak in peace." 
And Aristophanes laughed and said, "You have made a 
good point, Eryximachus, and please let what has been said be 
as if it were never spoken. But do not be my guardian, for in 
what is about to be said I am not afraid to say laughable 
things--for that would be a gain and native to our Muserebut 
only things that are laughed at." 
"You believe you can hit and run, Aristophanes," he said, 
"but pay attention and speak as though you are to render an 
account; perhaps, however, if I so resolve, I shall let you go." 
"Well, Eryximachus," Aristophanes said, "I do intend to 
speak in a somewhat different vein from that in which you and 
Pausanias spoke. Human beings, in my opinion, have been 
entirely unaware of the power of Eros, since if they were aware 
of it, they would have provided the greatest sanctuaries and 
altars for him, and would be making him the greatest sacrifices, 
and not act as they do now when none of this happens to him, 
though it most certainly should. For Eros is the most philan- 
thropic of gods, a helper of human beings as well as a physician 
dealing with an illness the healing of which would result in the 
greatest happiness for the human race. So I shall try to initiate 
you into his power; and you will be the teachers of everyone 
else. But you must first understand human nature and its afflic- 
tions. Our nature in the past was not the same as now but of a 
SYMPOSIUM 251 
different sort. First of all, the races of human beings were three, 
not two as now, male and female; for there was also a third race 
that shared in both, a race whose name still remains, though it 
itself has vanished. For at that time one race was androgynous, 
and in looks and name it combined both, the male as well as the 
female; but now it does not exist except for the name that is 
reserved for reproach. Secondly, the looks of each human being 
were as a whole round, with back and sides in a circle. And each 
had four arms, and legs equal in number to his arms, and two 
faces alike in all respects on a cylindrical neck, but there was 
one head for both faces--they were set in opposite directions-- 
and four ears, and two sets of genitals, and all the rest that one 
might conjecture from this. Each used to walk upright too, just 
as one does now, in whatever direction he wanted; and whenever 
he had the impulse to run fast, then just as tumblers with their 
legs straight out actually move around as they tumble in a circle, 
so did they, with their eight limbs as supports, quickly move in a 
circle. It is for this reason that the races were three and of this 
sort: because the male was in origin the offspring of the sun; the 
female, of the earth; and the race that shared in both, of the 
moonmsince the moon also shares in both. And they themselves 
were globular, as was their manner of walking, because they 
were like their parents. Now, they were awesome in their strength 
and robustness, and they had great and proud thoughts, so they 
made an attempt on the gods. And what Homer says about 
Ephialtes and Otus,l is said about themethat they attempted to 
make an ascent into the sky with a view to assaulting the gods. 
Then Zeus and the other gods deliberated as to what they should 
do with them. And they were long perplexed, for the gods knew 
neither how they could kill them and (just as they had struck the 
giants with lightning) obliterate the race--for, in that case, their 
own honors and sacrifices from human beings would vanish-- 
nor how they could allow them to continue to behave licen- 
tiously. Then Zeus thought hard and says, 'In my own opinion,' 
he said, 'I have a device whereby human beings would continue 
to exist and at the same time, having become weaker, would stop 
their licentiousness. I shall now cut each of them in two,' he 
said; 'and they will be both weaker and more useful to us 
through the increase in their numbers. And they will walk up- 
fight on two legs. But if they are thought to behave licentiously 
still, and are unwilling to keep quiet, then I shall cut them again 
lHomer, Odyssey, 11.305-320; Iliad, 5.385-391. 
252 PLATO SYMPOSIUM 253 
in two,' he said, 'so that they will go hopping on one leg.' As 
soon as he said this he began to cut human beings in two, just 
like those who cut sorb-apples in preparation for pickling, or 
those who cut eggs with hairs. And whenever he cut someone, 
he had Apollo turn the face and half the neck around to face the 
cut, so that in beholding his own cutting the human being might 
be more orderly; and he had him heal all the rest. Apollo turned 
the face around; and by drawing together the skin from every- 
where toward what is now called the belly (just like drawstring 
bags) he made one opening, which he tied off in the middle of 
the belly, and that is what they call the navel. He shaped up the 
chest and smoothed out many of the other wrinkles, with some- 
what the same kind of tool as shoemakers use in smoothing the 
wrinkles in leather on the last; but he left a few wrinkles, those 
on the belly itself and the navel, to be a reminder of our ancient 
affliction. When its nature was cut in two, each desiring its 
own half came together; and throwing their arms around one 
another and entangling themselves with one another in their 
desire to grow together, they began to die off due to hunger and 
the rest of their inactivity, because they were unwilling to do 
anything apart from one another; and whenever one of the halves 
did die and the other was left, the one that was left tried to seek 
out another and entangle itself with that, whether it met the half 
of the whole woman--and that is what we now call a woman or 
of a man; and so they continued to perish. But Zeus took pity on 
them and supplies another device: He rearranges their genitals 
toward the front--for up till then they had them on the outside, 
and they generated and gave birth not in one another but in the 
earth, like cicadas--and for this purpose, he changed this part of 
them toward the front, and by this means made generation 
possible in one another, by means of the male in the female; so 
that in embracing, if a man meets with a woman, they might 
generate and the race continue; and if male meets with male, 
there might at least be satiety in their being together; and they 
might pause and turn to work and attend to the rest of their 
livelihood. So it is really from such early times that human 
beings have had, inborn in themselves, Eros for one another-- 
Eros, the bringer-together of their ancient nature, who tries to 
make one out of two and to heal their human nature. Each of us, 
then, is a token of a human being, because we are sliced like 
fillets of sole, two out of one; and so each is always in search of 
his own token. Now all who are the men's slice from the 
common genus, which was then called androgynous, are lovers 
of women; and many adulterers have been of this genus; and, in 
turn, all who are women of this genus prove to be lovers of men 
and adulteresses. And all women who are sliced off from woman 
hardly pay attention to men but are rather turned toward women, 
and lesbians arise from this genus. But all who are male slices 
pursue the males; and while they are boys--because they are 
cutlets of the male--they are friendly to men and enjoy lying 
down together with and embracing men; and these are the best of 
boys and lads, because they are naturally the manliest. Some, to 
be sure, assert that such boys are shameless, but they lie. For it 
is not out of shamelessness that they do this but out of boldness, 
manliness, and masculinity, feeling affection for what is like to 
themselves. And there is a great proof of this, for once they have 
reached maturity, only men of this kind go off to political 
affairs. When they are fully grown men, they are pederasts and 
naturally pay no attention to marriage and procreation, but are 
compelled to do so by the law; whereas they would be content to 
live unmarried with one another. Now it is one of this sort who 
wholly becomes a pederast and passionate lover, always feeling 
affection for what is akin to himself. And when the pederast or 
anyone else meets with that very one who is his own half, then 
they are wondrously struck with friendship, attachment, and 
love, and are just about unwilling to be apart from one another 
even for a short time. And here you have those who continue 
through life with one another, though they could not even say 
what they want to get for themselves from one another. For no 
one would be of the opinion that it was sexual intercourse that 
was wanted, as though it were for this reason of all things-- 
that each so enjoys being with the other in great earnestness; but 
the soul of each plainly wants something else. What it is, it is 
incapable of saying, but it divines what it wants and speaks in 
riddles. If Hephaestus with his tools were to stand over them as 
they lay in the same place and were to ask, 'What is it that you 
want, human beings, to get for yourselves from one another?'-- 
and if in their perplexity he were to ask them again, 'Is it this 
you desire, to be with one another in the very same place, as 
much as is possible, and not to leave one another night and day? 
For if you desire that, I am willing to fuse you and make you 
grow together into the same thing, so that--though two you 
would be one; and as long as you lived, you would both live 
together just as though you were one; and when you died, there 
again in Hades you would be dead together as one instead of as 
254 PLATO SYMPOSIUM 255 
two. So see if you love this and would be content if you got it.' 
We know that there would not be even one who, if he heard this, 
would refuse, and it would be self-evident that he wants nothing 
else than this; and he would quite simply believe he had heard 
what he had been desiring all along: in conjunction and fusion 
with the beloved, to become one from two. The cause of this is 
that this was our ancient nature and we were wholes. So love is 
the name for the desire and pursuit of the whole. And pre- 
viously, as I say, we were one; but now through our injustice we 
have been dispersed by the god, just as the Arcadians were dispersed 
by the Spartans. There is the fear, then, that if we are not orderly 
in our behavior to the gods, we shall be split again and go 
around like those who are modeled in relief on stelae, sawed 
through our nostrils, like dice. For this reason every real man 
must be exhorted to be pious toward the gods in all his acts, so 
that we may avoid the one result and get the other, as Eros is our 
guide and general. Let no one act contrary to Eros--and he acts 
contrary whoever incurs the enmity of the gods--for if we 
become friends and reconciled to the gods, we shall find out and 
meet with our own favorites, which few at the moment do. And 
please don't let Eryximachus suppose, in making a comedy of 
my speech, that I mean Pausanias and Agathon--perhaps they 
have found their own and are both naturally born males. For 
whatever the case may be with them, I am referring to all men and 
women: our race would be happy if we were to bring our love to 
a consummate end, and each of us were to get his own favorite 
on his return to his ancient nature. And if this is the best, it must 
necessarily be the case that, in present circumstances, that which 
is closest to it is the best; and that is to get a favorite whose 
nature is to one's taste. And were we to hymn the god who is the 
cause of this we should justly hymn Eros, who at the present 
time benefits us the most by leading us to what is our own; and 
in the future he offers the greatest hopes, while we offer piety to 
the gods, to restore us to our ancient nature and by his healing 
make us blessed and happy. 
"Here, Eryximachus," he said, "is my speech about Eros, 
different from yours. So, just as I begged you, don't make a 
comedy of it, in order that we may listen to what each of the 
others or rather, what each of the two will say; for Agathon 
and Socrates are left." 
"Well, I shall obey you," he said Eryximachus said. "Your 
speech was indeed a pleasure for me. And if I did not know that 
both Socrates and Agathon were skilled in erotics, I should be 
very much afraid of their being at a loss for words on account of 
the fullness and variety of what has been said; but as it is, I am 
confident." 
Socrates then said, "That is because you yourself put up a 
fine show in the contest, Eryximachus; but if you were where I 
am now, or rather where I shall be when Agathon has spoken 
well, then you would really be afraid and as wholly baffled as I 
am now." 
"You want to bewitch me, Socrates," Agathon said. "You 
would have me believe that the audience is full of expectation 
that I shall speak well, and in that way, I shall be in a turmoil." 
"I should surely be forgetful, Agathon," Socrates said, "if 
I did that. I saw your courage and greatness of mind in mounting 
the platform with the actors and in facing so large an audience 
when you were about to display your own speeches, and I saw 
that you were in no way disturbed--should I now believe that 
you will be in a turmoil on account of us few human beings?" 
"What's this, Socrates?" Agathon said. "You really do not 
believe that I am so wrapped up in the theater as not toknow that 
to a man of sense a few who are sensible are more terrifying than 
many fools?" 
"Well, I should surely be in disgrace, Agathon," he said, 
"were I to presume any lack of urbanity in you; for I know very 
well that were you to meet any you believed wise, you would 
think more of them than of the many. But I suspect that we shall 
not prove to be of the wise, for we too were present there and 
were pan of the many; but if you were to meet others who were 
indeed wise, then you might be ashamed before them--if you 
were perhaps to believe that you were doing something that is 
disgraceful. Is this what you mean?" 
"What you say is true." 
"But you would not be ashamed before the many if you 
believed you were doing something disgraceful?" 
Phaedrus then interrupted and said, "Dear Agathon, if you 
answer Socrates, it will not make any difference to him what 
effect this might have on our present arrangements, provided 
only that he has someone to converse with, especially if he is 
beautiful. And I myself listen to Socrates' conversation with 
pleasure; but I am compelled to attend to the eulogy to Eros and 
to receive from each one of you your speech; so let each of you 
repay the god and then go on conversing as you were." 
"Well, what you say is fine, Phaedrus," Agathon said, 
25 6 PL^'ro SYMSUM 257 
"and nothing keeps me from speaking; for it will be possible for 
me to converse with Socrates on many other occasions. 
"I want first to say how I must speak, and then to speak. 
For in my own opinion all the previous speakers did not eulogize 
the god but blessed human beings for the goods of which the god 
is the cause; yet no one has said what sort is he who makes these 
gifts. There is one proper manner in every praise of anything: to 
tell in speech--whomever the speech is about--what sort he is 
and what sort of things he causes. This is the just way for us too 
to praise Eros--first what sort he is, and then his gifts. I declare 
that though all gods are happy, Eros (if sacred law allow it and it 
be without nemesis to say so) is the happiest of them, as he is the 
most beautiful and the best. As the most beautiful he is of the 
following sort: First, he is the youngest of gods, Phaedrus; and 
he by himself supplies a great proof for this assertion, for with 
headlong flight he avoids old age--swift though it plainly is, 
coming on us, at any rate, swifter than he should. It is precisely 
old age that Eros naturally detests; he does not even come within 
hailing distance of it. He is always with and of the young. For 
the old saying holds good, that like to like always draws near. 
Though I agree with Phaedrus in many other respects, I do not 
agree that Eros is more ancient than Kronos and Iapetos; but I 
affirm his being the youngest of gods and ever young. And the 
events of old about gods of which Hesiod and Parmenides speak 
belong to Necessity and not Eros, if what they say is true. 
Otherwise there would not have been castrations and bindings of 
each other, and many other acts of violence among the gods, had 
Eros been among them; but there would have been friendship 
and peace, just as there is now since Eros became king of the 
gods. So he is young, and besides being young, he is tender. But 
there is need of a poet as good as Homer was to show a god's 
tenderness. Homer says that Ate is a goddess and tendermher 
feet at any rate are tender--saying: 
'Tender are her feet, for she does not on the threshold 
Draw near, but 1o! she walks on the heads of men."2 
So in my opinion it is with a fine piece of evidence that he 
shows her softness, because she walks not on the hard but on the 
soft. And we too shall use the same piece of evidence about Eros 
to prove that he is soft; for not upon earth does he walk nor even 
2Homer. Iliad. 19.92-3. 
on skulls, which are hardly soft, but on the softest of beings he 
walks and dwells. For he has set up his dwelling place in the 
characters and souls of gods and human beings, and not in each 
and every soulsfor whichever soul he finds to have a hard 
character, he goes away from, and whichever he finds to have a 
soft one he dwells in. So, as he is always touching with his feet 
and every other part the softest of the softest, it is necessary that 
he be most tender. Now besides being youngest and tenderest, he 
is supple in his looks. Otherwise he would not be able to fold 
himself around everywhere, nor to be unobserved on first enter- 
ing or on departing from every soul, if he were hard. The 
harmony of his figure is a great piece of evidence for his 
proportioned and supple appearance, and on all sides it is agreed 
that Eros is exceptionally harmonious; for lack of harmony and 
Eros are always at war with one another. The god's way of 
living among blooming flowers means that his complexion is 
beautiful; for Eros does not settle on what is fading and has 
passed its bloom, whether it be body or soul or anything else, 
but wherever a place is blooming and scented, there he settles and 
remains. 
"Now this is enough about beauty as attributable to the 
god, though many points are still omitted; but Eros' virtue must 
next be spoken of. The greatest thing is that Eros neither com- 
mits injustice nor has injustice done to him, neither against a god 
nor by a god, neither against a human being nor by a human 
being. For it is not by violence that Eros is affected, if he is 
affected at all--for violence does not touch him; nor does he act 
with violence, for everyone of his own accord serves Eros in 
everything. And whatever anyone of his own accord agrees upon 
with another of his own accord, the 'royal laws of the city' 
declare to be just. And besides the share he has in justice he has 
his fullest share in moderation. For it is agreed that to be 
moderate means to dominate over pleasures and desires; but no 
pleasure is stronger than Eros; and if other pleasures are weaker, 
they will be dominated by Eros; and since it is he who is 
dominant, then in dominating pleasures and desires Eros must be 
exceptionally moderate. And besides, in point of courage, 'not 
even Ares resists' Eros; for Ares does not possess Eros (for 
Aphrodite, as the story goes), but Eros Ares. And he who 
possesses is stronger than he who is possessed; and in dominat- 
ing the bravest of all the rest, he must be the bravest. Now that 
the god's justice, moderation, and courage have been mentioned, 
all that remains is wisdom; so, as far as I can, I must try to 
258 eL^TO 
supply the omission. And first--that I too might honor our art as 
Eryximachus did his--the god is a poet of such wisdom that he 
can make poets of others too; at any rate, everyone whom Eros 
touches proves to be a poet, 'though he be without the Muses 
before.' We can, accordingly, properly make use of this fact to 
infer that in every kind of musical making [i.e., poetry] Eros is a 
good poet [maker]; for what one does not have and does not 
know, one could neither give to another nor teach another. And 
who will oppose the fact that the making of all animals is 
nothing but Eros' wisdom, by which all the animals come to be 
and grow? And don't we know that, in the case of the arts, 
whomever this god teaches turns out to be renowned and con- 
spicuous in craftsmanship, and that he whom Eros does not 
touch remains obscure? Archery, for example, medicine, and 
divination were invented by Apollo when desire and love were 
his guides; and thus he too must be a pupil of Eros, as are the 
Muses in music, Hephaestus in blacksmithing, Athena in weav- 
ing, and Zeus 'the captain of gods and human beings.' So it is 
plain that, when Eros came to be among them, the affairs of the 
gods were arranged out of love of beauty--for there is no eros 
present in ugliness. But before that, as I said at the start, many 
awesome events took place among the gods, as is said, through 
the monarchy of Necessity; whereas since the birth of this god, 
all good things have resulted for gods as well as for human 
beings from loving the beautiful things. 
"Thus Eros, in my opinion, Phaedrus, stands first, because 
he is the fairest and the best, and, after this, he is the cause for 
everyone else of the same sort of fair and good things. It occurs 
to me to say something in meter too, that he is the one who 
makes 
Peace among human beings, on the open sea calm 
And cloudlessness, the resting of winds and sleeping of 
care. 
He empties us of estrangement, he fills us with attachment; he 
arranges in all such gatherings as this our coming together with 
one another; in festivals, in dances, in sacrifices he proves 
himself a guide; furnishing gentleness, banishing wildness; lov- 
ing giver of amity, no giver of enmity; gracious, good; spectacu- 
lar to the wise, wonder-ful to the gods; enviable to the have-nots, 
desirable to the haves; father of luxury, splendor, glory, graces, 
SYMPOSIUM 259 
yearning, and longingaring for good ones, careless of bad ones; 
n toiling, in fearing, in longing, in speaking, the best governor, 
mariner, fellow warrior, and savior; the ornament of all gods and 
human beings, the fairest and best guide, whom every real man 
must follow hymning beautifully, and sharing the song Eros 
sings in charming the thought of all gods and human beings. 
"Here, Phaedrus, you have the speech from me," he said. 
"Let it be dedicated to the god, sharing, as far as I am able, 
partly in playfulness, partly in measured earnestness." 
Aristodemus said that when Agathon had finished speaking, 
all those present applauded vigorously, as the youth had spoken 
in a way as suited to himself as to the god. Socrates then said, 
with a glance at Eryximachus, "Son of Akoumenos," he said, 
"is it your opinion that my long-standing fear was groundless, 
and that I was not prophetic, when I said before that Agathon 
would speak in a marvelous way, and that I should be at a loss?" 
"In my opinion," Eryximachus said, "your first point was 
indeed prophetic, that Agathon would speak well; but as to the 
other, that you would be at a loss, that I do not believe." 
"You blessed innocent! How can you say that?" Socrates 
said. "Am I and anyone else whatsoever not to be at a loss after 
so fair and varied a speech has been made? Though the rest was 
not quite so marvelous, that bit at the end--who would not be 
thunderstruck on hearing the beauty of its words and phrases? I 
for my part, on reflecting that I myself should be unable to say 
anything nearly as beautiful, almost ran off and was gone in shame-- 
if I had any place to go. For the speech reminded me of Gorgias; 
so I was simply affected as in the saying of Homer's. I was afraid 
that Agathon in his speech would at last send the head of the 
dread speaker Gorgias against my speeches and turn me to very 
stone in speechlessness. 13 And then I realized that, after all, I am 
to be laughed at for having agreed to eulogize Eros in turn with 
you, and for claiming that I was skilled in erotics; for as it has 
turned out, I know nothing of the matter, nor how one is to eulogize 
anything. For in my stupidity I believed the truth had to be told 
about anything that was given a eulogy, and that this was the 
underpinning, and that by selecting the most beautiful parts of 
the truth one was to arrange them in the seemliest manner 
possible. And I was quite filled with the proud thought that I 
should speak well, since I knew the truth about praising any- 
3A pun on Gorgias and Gorgon. whose head Odysseus was afraid Persephone would 
send against him if he lingered in Hades (Odyssey 11.632). "Dread speaker" also 
means "skilled speaker." 
260 PLATO SYMPOSIUM 261 
thing. But it was not this after all, it seems, that was meant by 
the fair praising of anything, but the attribution to the matter at 
hand of the greatest and fairest things possible regardless of 
whether this was so or not. And if the praise were false, it was of 
no importance anyway; for the injunction was, it seems, that 
each of us should be thought to eulogize Eros, and not just 
eulogize him. It is for this reason, I suspect, that you leave no 
argument unturned and dedicate each and every argument to 
Eros. And you assert that he is of this sort and that sort and the 
cause of so many things, so that he may seem to be as beautiful 
and good as possible--plainly to those who do not know, for this 
surely is not the case for those who do know--and so the praise 
turns out to be beautiful and awesome. But after all I did not 
know that this was to be the manner of praise, and in ignorance I 
came to an agreement with you that I would take my turn in 
praising. 'So the tongue promised but the mind did not'; '4 let me 
then call it quits. I am not a eulogist in this fashion: I am simply 
incapable of it. Not that I am unwilling on the contrary I am 
willing--if you want, to tell the truth on my own terms, so long 
as my words are not to be compared with your speeches, lest I be 
laughed at. Decide, then, Phaedrus, if you have any need for 
such a speech too, for hearing the truth being said about Eros, 
even though the phrasing and arrangement of the sentences just 
fall as they come." 
He said that Phaedrus and the others urged Socrates to 
speak in whatever way he himself believed he had to speak. 
"Allow me further, Phaedrus," he said, "to ask Agathon 
about a few small points, in order that when I have got him to 
agree with me I can go ahead and speak." 
"Well, I allow it," Phaedrus said. "Ask." After this he 
said that Socrates began from somewhat the following point. 
"Well, dear Agathon, in my opinion you made a fine start 
to your speech, in saying that one had to show first what sort of 
being Eros himself is, and then his deeds. I very much admire 
this beginning. So come now, since you have explained fairly 
and magnificently all the rest about what sort he is, then tell me 
this as well about Eros: is Eros the sort that is love of something 
or of nothing? I am not asking whether he is of a mother or of a 
father (for the question whether Eros is love of mother or father 
would be laughable), but just as if I asked about this very word, 
father--is the father father of someone or not? You should 
4Euripides, Hippolytus, 612: "The tongue swore, but the mind did not." 
doubtless tell me, if you wanted to give a fair reply, that the 
father is father of a son or daughter. Isn't that so?" 
"Of course," Agathon said. 
"And the same is true of the mother?" This too was agreed 
upon. 
"Answer me just a little more," Socrates said, "so that you 
might come to understand better what I want. Suppose I asked, 
'What about this point? Is a brother, just in terms of what he is, 
a brother of someone, or isn't he?' "He answered that he is. 
"And of a brother or a sister, right?" He agreed. 
"Do try, then," he said, "to tell about love as well. Is Eros 
love of nothing or something?" 
"Of course he is of something." 
"Keep this fast in your memory, this something of which 
you claim he is," Socrates said, "but now say only this much: 
That Eros that is the love of something, does he desire this 
something or not?" 
"Of course he does," he said. 
"And is it when he has, or does not have, that which he 
desires and loves, that he desires and loves it?" 
"It is at least likely that he does not have it," he said. 
"Think," Socrates said, "is it not a necessity rather than a 
likelihood that the desirous thing desires what it is in need of, 
and does not desire unless it is in need? For in my opinion, 
Agathon, it is a marvelous necessity. What is your opinion?" 
"It's my opinion too," he said. 
':What you say is fair. Would anyone want to be tall if he 
were tall, or strong if he were strong?" 
"From what has been agreed upon, that would be impossible." 
"For he surely would not be in need of those things that he 
already is." 
"What you say is true." 
"So that if he wanted to be strong being strong," Socrates 
said, "and swift being swift, and healthy being healthy--I say 
this so that we may not deceive ourselves, for one might perhaps 
suppose with regard to these and all cases of this sort that those 
who are of this sort and have these things desire those things that 
they have--but if you have these cases in mind, Agathon, then 
who would desire each of those things that of necessity he has at 
the moment when, whether he wants to or not, he has it? For 
whenever anyone says, 'I am healthy and want to be healthy or I 
am wealthy and want to be wealthy, and I desire those very 
things that I have,' we should tell him, 'You, human being, 
262 PLATO 
possessing wealth, health, and strength, want to possess them 
also in the future, since at the present moment at least, whether 
you want to or not, you have them. Consider then, whenever you 
say, "I want the present things," if you mean anything else than, 
"I want the things of the present moment to be present also in 
future time." Would he agree to that?" Aristodemus said that 
Agathon consented. 
Socrates then said, "To want that those things be safe and 
present for him in future time, is to love that which is not yet at 
hand for him and which he does not have." 
"Of course," he said. 
"So he and everyone else who desires what is not at hand 
desires what is not present; and what he does not have and what 
he himself is not and what he is in need of--it is things like that 
of which desire and love are, right?" 
"Of course," he said. 
"Come then," Socrates said. "Let us draw up an agree- 
ment about what has been said. Eros is love, first of all, of some 
things, and secondly, of whatever things the need for which is 
present to him." 
"Yes," he said. 
"Would you now think back then to what you asserted Eros 
to be of in your speech; but if you want, I shall remind you. I 
believe you spoke somewhat along these lines---that matters 
were arranged by the gods through love of beautiful things, for 
there would not be love of ugly things. Weren't you speaking 
somewhat along these lines?" 
"I said so," Agathon said. 
"And what you say is reasonable, comrade," Socrates said. 
"And if this is so, Eros would be nothing else than love of 
beauty, but not of ugliness?" He agreed. 
"Hasn't it been agreed that that of which one is in need and 
does not have one loves?" 
"Yes," he said. 
"So Eros is in need of and does not have beauty." 
"Of necessity," he said. 
"What about this? That which is in need of beauty and in 
no way possesses beauty, do you say that it is beautiful?" 
"Certainly not." 
"Do you still agree then that Eros is beautiful, if this is 
SO?" 
And Agathon said, "It's probable, Socrates, that I knew 
nothing of what I had said." 
SYMPOSIUM 263 
"And yet spoke you beautifully, Agathon," he said. "But, 
still, tell me about a small point. Are the good things beautiful 
as well in your opinion?" 
"Yes, in mine." 
"So if Eros is in need of beautiful things, and the good 
things are fair, he would be in need of the good things as well." 
"I, Socrates," he said, "would not be able to contradict 
you; so let it be as you say." 
"Not at all, my dear Agathon. It is rather that you are 
unable to contradict the truth," he said, "since it is not at all 
hard to contradict Socrates. 
"And I shall let you go for now, and turn to the speech 
about Eros that I once heard from a woman, Diotima of Mantineia. 
She was wise in these and many other things; when the Athenians 
once made a sacrifice before the plague, she caused the onset of 
the disease to be delayed ten years; and she is the very one who 
taught me erotics. The speech that she was wont to make, I shall 
now try to tell you all on the basis of what has been agreed on 
between Agathon and myself; and ! shall try to do it on my own, 
as best I can. For just as you explained, Agathon, one must first 
tell who Eros himself is and what sort he is, and then tell his 
deeds. In my opinion, it is easiest to do this in just the same way 
that the stranger once did in quizzing me. For I came pretty near, 
in speaking to her, to saying the same sort of things that Agathon 
said to me nowmthat Eros was a great god, and was the love of 
beautiful things. She then went on to refute me with those same 
arguments with which I refuted him--that he is neither beautiful, 
according to my argument, nor good. 
"And I said, 'How do you mean it, Diotima? Is Eros after 
all ugly and bad?' 
"And she said, 'Hush! Or do you believe that whatever is 
not beautiful must necessarily be ugly?' 
"'Absolutely.' 
"'And whatever is not wise, without understanding? Or 
were you unaware that there is something in between wisdom 
and lack of understanding?' 
"'What is this?' 
"'Don't you know,' she said, 'that to opine correctly 
without being able to give an account [logos] is neither to know 
expertly (for how could expert knowledge be an unaccounted for 
[alogon] matter?) nor lack of understanding (for how could lack 
of understanding be that which has hit upon what is)? But surely 
264 PLATO SYMPOSIUM 265 
correct opinion is like that, somewhere between intelligence and 
lack of understanding.' 
"'What you say is true,' I said. 
"'Then do not compel what is not beautiful to be ugly, or 
what is not good, to be bad. So too since you yourself agree that 
Eros is not good or beautiful, do not at all believe that he must 
be ugly and bad,' she said, 'but something between the two of 
them.' 
"'And yet,' I said, 'it is agreed on by all that he is a great god.' 
"'Do you mean by all who do not know,' she said, 'or by 
those who know?' 
"'No, by all together.' 
"And she said with a laugh, 'And how, Socrates, could he be 
agreed to be a gmat god by those who deny even that he is a god?' 
"'Who are these?' I said. 
"'You are one,' she said, 'and I am one.' 
"And I said, 'How can you say this?' I said. 
"And she said, 'It's easy. Tell me, don't you assert that all 
gods are happy and beautiful? Or would you dare to deny that 
any one of the gods is beautiful and happy?' 
"'By Zeus, I would not,' I said. 
"'But don't you mean by the happy precisely those who 
possess the good things and the beautiful things?' 
"'Of course.' 
"'And do you hold to the agreement that Eros out of need 
for the good and beautiful things desires those very things of 
which he is in need?' 
"'Yes, I hold to it.' 
"'How then could he who is without a share in the beauti- 
ful and good things be a god?' 
"'In no way, it seems.' 
"'Do you see then,' she said, 'that you too hold that Eros 
is not a god?' 
"'What would Eros then be?' I said. 'A mortal?' 
"'Hardly that.' 
"'Well, what then?' 
"'Just as before,' she said, 'between mortal and immortal.' 
"'What is that, Diotima?' 
"'A great daemon, Socrates, for everything daemonic 15 is 
between god and mortal.' 
Daemonic (daimonion) is either a neuter diminutive of daimon or a neuter adjective, 
related to daimon as divine (theion) is to god (theos). This neuter, in any case, is the 
theme of the dialogue up to Socrates' speech that concludes with "vulgar and low." 
"'With what kind of power?' I said. 
"'Interpreting and ferrying to gods things from human beings 
and to human beings things from gods: the requests and sacri- 
rices of human beings, the orders and exchanges-for-sacrifices of 
gods; for it is in the middle of both and fills up the interval so 
that the whole itself has been bound together by it. Through this 
proceeds all divination and the art of the priests who deal with 
sacrifices, initiatory rituals, incantations, and every kind of sooth- 
saying and magic. A god does not mingle with a human being; 
but through this occurs the whole intercourse and conversation of 
gods with human beings while they are awake and asleep. And 
he who is wise in things like this is a daemonic man; but he who 
is wise in anything else concerning either arts or handicrafts is 
vulgar and low. These daemons are many and of all kinds; and 
one of them is Eros.' 
"'Who is his father?' I said, 'And who is his mother?' 
"'It is rather long,' she said, 'to explain; but I shall tell 
you all the same. When Aphrodite was born, all the other gods 
as well as Poros [Resource] the son of Metis [Intelligence] were 
at a feast; 16 and when they had dined, Penia [Poverty] arrived to 
beg for something--as might be expected at a festivity--and she 
hung about near the door. Then Poros got drunk on nectar--for 
them was not yet wine--and, heavy of head, went into the 
garden of Zeus and slept. Then Penia, who because of her own 
lack of resources was plotting to have a child made out of Poros, 
reclined beside him and conceived Eros. It is for this reason that 
Eros has been the attendant and servant of Aphrodite, as he was 
conceived on her birthday; for he is by nature a lover in regard to 
the beautiful, and Aphrodite is beautiful. So because Eros is the 
son of Poros and Penia, his situation is in some such case as this. 
First of all, he is always poor; and he is far from being tender 
and beautiful, as the many believe, but is tough, squalid, shoeless, 
and homeless, always lying on the ground without a blanket or a 
bed, sleeping in doorways and along waysides in the open air; he 
has the nature of his mother, always dwelling with neediness. 
But in accordance with his father he plots to trap the beautiful 
and the good, and is courageous, stout, and keen, a skilled 
hunter, always weaving devices, desirous of practical wisdom 
t6Metis is the first goddess Zeus marries after the wars among the gods are over. 
He is warned in time not to allow her child Athena to be born, lest Athena's children 
overthrow him; he swallows Metis, and Athena is later born from the head of Zeus (see 
Hesiod, Theogony, 886-900). 
266 PL^TO 
and inventive, philosophizing through all his life, a skilled magi- 
cian, druggist, sophist. And his nature is neither immortal nor 
mortal; but sometimes on the same day he flourishes and lives, 
whenever he has resources; and sometimes he dies, but get s to 
live again through the nature of his father. And as that which is 
supplied to him is always gradually flowing out, Eros is never 
either without resources nor wealthy, but is in between wisdom 
and lack of understanding. For here is the way it is: No one of 
the gods philosophizes and desires to become wise--for he is 
so nor if there is anyone else who is wise, does he philoso- 
phize. Nor, in turn, do those who lack understanding philoso- 
phize and desire to become wise; for it is precisely this that 
makes the lack of understanding so difficult--that if a man is not 
beautiful and good, nor intelligent, he has the opinion that that is 
sufficient for him. Consequently, he who does not believe that 
he is in need does not desire that which he does not believe he 
needs. ' 
"'Then who, Diotima, are the philosophizers,' I said, 'if 
they are neither the wise nor those who lack understanding?' 
"'By now it is perfectly plain even to a child,' she said, 
'that they are those between them both, of whom Eros would be 
one. For wisdom is one of the most beautiful things, and Eros is 
love in regard to the beautiful; and so Eros is--necessarily--a 
philosopher; and as a philosopher he is between being wise and 
being without understanding. His manner of birth is responsible 
for this, for he is of a wise and resourceful father, and an unwise 
and resourceless mother. Now the nature of the daemon, dear 
Socrates, is this; but as for the one whom you believed to be 
Eros, it is not at all surprising that you had this impression. You 
believed, in my opinion, as I conjecture from what you say, that 
the beloved is Eros, and is not that which loves. It is for this 
reason, I believe, that Eros seemed to you to be wholly beauti- 
ful. For the beloved thing is truly beautiful, delicate, perfect, 
and most blessed; but that which loves has another kind of look, 
the sort that I just explained.' 
"And I said, 'All right, stranger, what you say is fine. If 
Eros is of this sort, of what use is he for human beings?' 
"'It is this, Socrates,' she said, 'that I shall next try to 
teach you. Now, Eros is of that sort and was born in that- way; 
and he is of the beautiful things, as you assert. But what if 
someone were to ask us, "What about those beautiful' things of 
which Eros is, Socrates and Diotima?" It is more clearly ex- 
204d 
SYMPOSIUM 267 
pressed as follows: He who loves the beautiful things loves-- 
what does he love?' 
"And I said, 'That they be his.' 
"'But the answer,' she said, 'still longs for the following 
sort of question: What will he have who gets the beautiful 
things?' 
"I said that I was hardly capable of giving a ready answer 
to this question. 
"'Well,' she said. 'What if someone changed his query 
and used the good instead of the beautiful? Come, Socrates, the 
lover of the good things loves: what does he love?' 
"'That they be his,' I said. 
"'And what will he who gets the good things have?' 
"'This,' I said, 'I can answer more adequately: he will be 
happy.' 
"'That,' she said, 'is because the happy are happy by the 
acquisition of good things; and there is no further need to ask, 
"For what consequence does he who wants to be happy want to 
be so?" But the answer is thought to be a complete one.' 
"'What you say is true,' I said. 
"'This wanting and this eros, do you suppose they are 
common to all human beings, and all want the good things to be 
theirs always, or how do you mean it?' 
"'That way,' I said. 'They are common to all.' 
"'Why is it, then, Socrates,' she said, 'that we deny that 
everyone loves--given, that is, that everyone loves the same 
things and always---but we say that some love and some do not?' 
"'I too,' I said, 'am amazed.' 
"'Well,' she said, 'don't persist in your amazement; for 
we detach from eros a certain kind of eros and give it the name 
eros, imposing upon it the name of the whole; while in the other 
cases we employ several different names.' 
"'What are those?' I said. 
"'Like the following: You know that "making" has a 
wide range; for, you see, every kind of making is responsible for 
anything whatsoever that is on the way from what is not to what 
is. And thus all the productions that are dependent on the arts are 
makings, and all the craftsmen engaged in them are makers.' 
"'What you say is true.' 
"'But nevertheless,' she said, 'you know that not all crafts- 
men are called makers but have other names', and one part is 
separated off from all of making--that which is concerned with 
music and meters--and is addressed by the name of the whole. 
268 PLATO 
For this alone is called poetry; and those who have this part of 
making are poets.' 
"'What you say is true,' I said. 
"'So too in the case of eros. In brief, eros is the whole 
desire of good things and of being happy, "the greatest and 
all-beguiling eros." But those who turn toward it in many other 
ways, in terms of either money-making, love of gymnastics, or 
philosophy, are neither said to love nor called lovers; whereas 
those who earnestly apply themselves to a certain single kind, 
get the name of the whole, love, and are said to love and called 
lovers.' 
"'What you say is probably true,' I said. 
"'And there is a certain account,' she said, 'according to 
which those who seek their own halves are lovers. But my 
speech denies that eros is of a half or of a whole--unless, 
comrade, that half or whole can be presumed to be really good; 
for human beings are willing to have their own feet and hands 
cut off, if their opinion is that their own are no good. For I 
suspect that each does not cleave to his own (unless one calls the 
good one's own and belonging to oneself, and the bad alien to 
oneself) since there is nothing that human beings love other than 
the good. Or is it your opinion that they do?' 
"'No, by Zeus,' I said, 'that is not my opinion.' 
"'Then,' she said, 'is it to be said unqualifiedly that 
human beings love the good?' 
"'Yes,' I said. 
"'What about this? Mustn't it be added,' she said, 'that 
they love the good to be theirs?' 
"'It must be added.' 
"'And not only that it be theirs,' she said, 'but always as 
well?' 
"'This too must be added.' 
"'So, in sum,' she said, 'eros is of the good's being one's 
own always.' 
"'What you say is most true,' I said. 
"'Since eros is always this,' she said, 'then in what man- 
ner and in what activity would the earnestness and intensity of 
those who pursue the good be called eros. What in fact are they 
doing when they act so? Can you tell?' 
"'If I could, Diotima, then I should not, you know, in 
admiration of your wisdom,' I said, 'resort to you to learn this 
very thing.' 
"'Well, I shall tell you,' she said. 'Their deed is bringing 
SYMPOSIUM 269 
to birth in beauty both in terms of the body and in terms of the 
soul. ' 
"'Whatever it is that you mean,' I said, 'is in need of 
divination, and I do not begin to understand.' 
"'Well, I shall speak more clearly,' she said. 'All human 
beings, Socrates,' she said, 'conceive both in terms of the body 
and in terms of the soul, and whenever they are at a certain age, 
their nature desires to give birth; but it is incapable of giving 
birth in ugliness, but only in beauty, for the being together of 
man and woman is a bringing to birth. This thing, pregnancy and 
bringing to birth, is divine, and it is immortal in the animal that 
is mortal. It is impossible for this to happen in the unfitting; and 
the ugly is unfitting with everything divine, but the beautiful is 
fitting. So Kallone [Beauty] is the Moira [Fate] and Eileithyia 17 
for birth. It is for these reasons that whenever the pregnant draws 
near to beauty, it becomes glad and in its rejoicing dissolves and 
then gives birth and produces offspring; but whenever it draws 
near to ugliness, then, downcast and in pain, it contracts in- 
wardly, turns away, shrinks up, and does not produce offspring, 
but checking the course of the pregnancy, has a hard time of it. 
So this is why someone who is pregnant, with breasts already 
swelling, flutters so much around the beautiful, because the 
one who has the beautiful releases him from great labor pains. For 
eros is not, Socrates,' she said, 'of the beautiful, as you believe.' 
"'Well, what then?' 
"'It is of engendering and bringing to birth in the beautiful.' 
"'All right,' I said. 
"'It is more than all right,' she said. 'And why is eros of 
engendering? Because engendering is born forever and is immor- 
tal as far as that can happen to a mortal being. From what has 
been agreed to, it is necessary to desire immortality with good, 
provided eros is of the good's always being one's own. So it is 
necessary from this argument that eros be of immortality too.' 
"All of these things she used to teach me whenever she 
made her speeches about erotics. And once she also asked, 
'What do you believe, Socrates, is the cause of this eros and 
desire? Or aren't you aware how uncanny is the disposition of all 
the beasts (the footed as well as the winged) whenever they 
desire to produce offspring? They are all ill and of an erotic 
disposition, first concerning actual intercourse with one another, 
then later concerning the nurture of what is generated. And they 
7Fate and Eileithyia are goddesses who preside over birth, and Kallone is a cult 
name of Artemis-Hecate. 
270 PLATO SYMPOSIUM 271 
are ready to fight to the finish, the weakest against the strongest, 
for the sake of those they have generated, and to die on their 
behalf; and they are willingly racked by starvation and stop at 
nothing to nourish their offspring. One might suppose,' she said, 
'that human beings do this from calculation; but as for the 
beasts, what is the cause of their erotic disposition's being of this 
sort? Can you say?' 
"And I again said that I did not know; and she said, 'Do 
you really. think you will ever become skilled in erotics, if you 
do not understand this?' 
"'But you see, Diotima, that is the reason--as I said just 
now--why I have come to you: I know I am in need of teachers. 
But do tell me the cause of these things as well as of the rest that 
concern erotics.' 
"'If you put your trust,' she said, 'in the statement that by 
nature eros is of that which we have often agreed to, don't 
persist in your amazement. For in the eros of the beasts, in terms 
of the same argument as that concerning men, the mortal nature 
seeks as far as possible to be forever and immortal. Mortal 
nature is capable of immortality only in this way, the way of 
generation, because it is always leaving behind another that is 
young to replace the old. For while each one of the animals is 
said to live and be the same (for example, one is spoken of as the 
same from the time one is a child until one is an old man; and 
though he never has the same things in himself, nevertheless, he 
is called the same), he is forever becoming young in some 
respects as he suffers losses in other respects: his hair, flesh, 
bones, blood, and his whole body. And this is so not only in 
terms of the body but also in terms of the soul; his ways, 
character, opinions, desires, pleasures, pains, fears, each of 
these things is never present as the same for each, but they are 
partly coming to be and partly perishing. And what is far stranger 
still is that in the case of our sciences too not only are some 
coming to be while others are perishing (and we are never the 
same in terms of the sciences either); but also each single one of 
the sciences is affected in the same way. For studying, as it is 
called, is done on the grounds that the science is passing out 
from us; for forgetfulness is the exiting of science; and studying, 
by instilling a fresh memory again to replace the departing one, 
preserves the science, so that it may be thought to be the same. 
For in this way every mortal thing is preserved; not by being 
absolutely the same forever, as the divine is, but by the fact that 
that which is departing and growing old leaves behind another 
young thing that is as it was. By this device, Socrates,' she said, 
'the mortal shares in immortality, both body and all the rest; but the 
immortal has a different way. So do not be amazed if everything 
honors by nature its own offshoot; for it is for the sake of 
immortality that this zeal and eros attend everything.' 
"And when I had heard her speech I was amazed and said, 
'Really!' I said. 'Wisest Diotima, is it truly like this?' 
"And she, like the perfect Sophists, said, 'Know it well, 
Socrates,' she said, 'inasmuch as in the case of human beings, if 
you were willing to glance at their love of honor, you would be 
amazed at their irrationality unless you understand what I have 
said and reflect how uncanny their disposition is made by their 
love of renown, "and their setting up immortal fame for eternity"; 
and for the sake of fame even more than for their children, they 
are ready to run all risks, to exhaust their money, to toil at every 
sort of toil, and to die. For do you suppose,' she said, 'that 
Alcestis would have died for Admetus' sake, or Achilles would 
have died after Patroclus, or your own Codms would have died 
before his sons for the sake of their kingship, if they had not 
believed that there would be an immortal remembering of their 
virtue, which we now retain? Far from it,' she said, 'but I 
believe that all do all things for the sake of immortal virtue and a 
famous reputation of that sort; and the better they are, so much 
the more is it thus; for they love the immortal. Now there are 
those who are pregnant in terms of their bodies,' she said, 'and 
they turn rather to women and are erotic in this way, furnishing 
for themselves through the procreation of children immortality, 
remembrance, and happiness (as they believe) for all future time. 
But there are others who are pregnant in terms of the soul--for 
these, in fact,' she said, 'are those who in their souls even more 
than in their bodies conceive those things that it is appropriate 
for soul to conceive and bear. And what is appropriate for soul? 
Prudence and the rest of virtue; it is of these things that all the 
poets and all the craftsmen who are said to be inventive are 
procreators; and by far the greatest and most beautiful part of 
prudence,' she said, 'is the arranging and ordering of the affairs 
of cities and households. Its name is moderation and justice. So 
whenever someone from youth onward is pregnant in his soul 
with these virtues, if he is divine and of suitable age, then he 
desires to give birth and produce offspring. And he goes round in 
search, I believe, of the beautiful in which he might generate; for 
he will never generate in the ugly. So it is beautiful bodies rather 
than ugly ones to which he cleaves because he is pregnant; and if 
272 PLATO SYMPOSIUM 273 
he meets a beautiful, generous, and naturally gifted soul, he 
cleaves strongly to the two (body and soul) together. And to this 
human being he is at once fluent in speeches about virtue---of 
what sort the good man must be and what he must practice--and 
he tries to educate him. So in touching the one who is beautiful, 
I suspect, and in association with him, he engenders and gives 
birth to offspring with which he was long pregnant; and whether 
the [lover] is present or absent he holds the beautiful one in 
memory, and nurtures with him that which has been generated in 
common. Therefore, those of this sort maintain a greater associa- 
tion and firmer friendship with one another than do those who 
have children in common, because the children they share in 
common are more beautiful and more immortal. And everyone 
would choose to have for himself children like these rather than 
the human kind; and if one looks at Homer, Hesiod, and the 
other good poets, one envies them: what offspring of themselves 
they have left behind! For as these offspring are in their own 
right immortal, they supply the poets with immortal fame and 
memory. And if you want,' she said, 'think of the children that 
Lycurgus left behind in Sparta, the preservers of Sparta and, to 
exaggerate a little, of Greece. Solon too is honored among you 
through his engendering of the laws; and other men as well in 
many other regions, among Greeks and among barbarians, by 
their showing forth of many beautiful deeds, have engendered 
every kind of virtue. It is to these that many sanctuaries are now 
dedicated through children of this kind; while through the human 
sort there are no sanctuaries for anyone yet. 
"'Now perhaps, Socrates, you too might be initiated into 
these erotics; but as for the perfect revelations--for which the 
others are means, if one were to proceed correctly on the waymI 
do not know if you would be able to be initiated into them. Now 
I shall speak,' she said. 'I shall not falter in my zeal: do try to 
follow, if you are able. He who is to move correctly in this 
matter must begin while young to go to beautiful bodies. And 
first of all, if the guide is guiding correctly, he must love one 
body and there generate beautiful speeches. Then he must realize 
that the beauty that is in any body whatsoever is related to that in 
another body; and if he must pursue the beauty of looks, it is 
great folly not to believe that the beauty of all bodies is one and 
the same. And with this realization he must be the lover of all 
beautiful bodies and in contempt slacken this [erotic] intensity 
for only one body, in the belief that it is petty. After this he must 
believe that the beauty in souls is more honorable than that in the 
body. So that even if someone who is decent in his soul has only 
a slight youthful charm, the lover must be content with it, and 
love and cherish him, and engender and seek such speeches as 
will make the young better; in order that [the lover], on his part, 
may be compelled. to behold the beautiful in pursuits and laws, 
and to see that all this is akin to itself, so that he may come to 
believe that the beauty of the body is something trivial. And after 
these pursuits, he must lead [the beloved] on to the sciences, so 
that he [himself, the lover] may see the beauty of sciences, and 
in looking at the beautiful, which is now so vast, no longer be 
content like a lackey with the beauty in one, of a boy, of some 
human being, or of one practice, nor be a sorry sort of slave and 
petty calculator; but with a permanent turn to the vast open sea of 
the beautiful, behold it and give birthrain ungrudging philosophy 
to many beautiful and magnificent speeches and thoughts; until, 
there strengthened and increased, he may discern a certain single 
philosophical science, which has as its object the following sort 
of beauty. Try to pay as close attention as you can,' she said. 
'Whoever has been educated up to this point in erotics, behold- 
ing successively and correctly the beautiful things, in now going 
to the perfect end of erotics shall suddenly glimpse something 
wonderfully beautiful in its nature--that very thing, Socrates, for 
whose sake alone all the prior labors were undertakensomething 
that is, first of all, always being and neither coming to be nor 
perishing, nor increasing nor passing away; and secondly, not 
beautiful in one respect and ugly in another, nor at one time so, 
and at another time not---either with respect to the beautiful or 
the uglynor here beautiful and there ugly, as being beautiful to 
some and ugly to others; nor in turn will the beautiful be 
imagined by him as a kind of face or hands or anything else in 
which body shares, nor as any speech nor any science, and not 
as being somewhere in something else (for example, in an 
animal, or in earth, or in heaven, or in anything else), but as it is 
alone by itself and with itself, always being of a single form; 
while all other beautiful things that share in it do so in such a 
way that while it neither becomes anything more or less, nor is 
affected at all, the rest do come to be and perish. So whenever 
anyone begins to glimpse that beauty as he goes on up from 
these things through the correct practice of pederasty, he must 
come close to touching the perfect end. For this is what it is to 
proceed correctly, or to be led by another, to erotics--beginning 
274 ?.^ro SYM'OSUM 275 
from these beautiful things here, always to proceed on up for 
the sake of that beauty, using these beautiful things here as 
steps: from one to two, and from two to all beautiful bodies; and 
from beautiful bodies to beautiful pursuits; and from pursuits to 
beautiful lessons; and from lessons to end at that lesson, which is 
the lesson of nothing else than the beautiful itself; and at last to 
know what is beauty itself. It is at this place in life, in beholding 
the beautiful itself, my dear Socrates,' the Mantinean stranger 
said, 'that it is worth living, if--for a human being--it is [worth 
living] at any place. Should you ever see the beautiful itself, it 
will be your opinion that it is not to be compared to gold and 
garments and the beautiful boys and youths at whose sight you 
are now thunderstruck. And you and many others are prepared, 
in seeing the beloved and in always being with him, neither to 
eat nor drink, if it were somehow possible, but only to behold 
him and be with him. What then,' she said, 'do we believe 
happens to one, if he gets to see the beautiful itself, pure, clean, 
unmixed, and not infected with human flesh, colors, or a lot of 
other mortal foolishness, and can glimpse the divine beautiful 
itself as being of a single shape? Do you believe,' she said, 'that 
life would prove to be a sorry sort of thing, when a human being 
gazes in the direction of the beautiful and beholds it with the 
instrument with which he must and is together with it? Or don't 
you realize,' she said, 'that only here, in seeing in the way the 
beautiful is seeable, will he get to engender not phantom images 
of virtuembecause he does not lay hold of a phantom--but true, 
because he lays hold of the true; and that once he has given birth 
to and cherished true virtue,. it lies within him to become dear to 
god and, if it is possible for any human being, to become 
immortal as well?' 
"Here, Phaedrus and you others, is what Diotima declared 
and what I am convinced of. And in this state of conviction, I try 
to persuade others that for this possession one could not easily 
get a better co-worker with human nature than Eros. Accord- 
ingly, I assert that every real man must honor Eros, as I myself 
honor erotics and train myself exceptionally in them; and I urge 
it on the rest, and now and always I eulogize the power and 
courage of Eros as far as I am able. Regard this speech, then, 
Phaedrus, if you want to, as spoken in eulogy of Eros; but if not, 
and your pleasure is to give it some other kind of name, so name 
it." 
When Socrates had said this, some praised it; and Aristoph- 
anes tried to say something, because Socrates in speaking had 
mentioned him and referred to his speech. But suddenly a ham- 
mering on the courtyard door made a lot of noise--revelers they 
thought--and they heard the sound of a flute girl. Then Agathon 
said, "Boys, go look. And if it is any one of our close friends, 
invite him in; but if not, say that we are not drinking but have 
already stopped." 
Not much later they heard the voice of Alcibiades in the 
courtyard, very drunk and shouting loudly, asking where Agathon 
was and commanding them to lead him to Agathon. Then the 
flute girl who together with some other of his attendants-- 
supported him and led him before them; and he stood at the door, 
thickly crowned with ivy and violets, with many fillets on his 
head. And he said, "Men, hail! Will you welcome a man who's 
terribly drunk as a fellow drinker? Or shall we go away just as 
soon as we have wreathed Agathon, for which single purpose we 
have come? For I, you see," he said, "could not come yester- 
day, but now I have come with fillets on my head, so that from 
my own head I might wreathe the head of the wisest and most 
beautiful--well! And if I shall say that, what then? Will you 
laugh at me because I am drunk? But all the same, even if you 
do laugh, I know well that I am telling the truth. Well, tell me 
on the spot, shall I enter on the said conditions or not? Will you 
join me in drink or not?" 
Then they all applauded loudly and asked him to enter and 
lie down; and Agathon summoned him. And he came led by his 
creatures; and as he was taking off the fillets to do the 
crowning--he had had them before his eyes and so did not 
observe Socrates--he sat down alongside Agathon, between him 
and Socrates; for Socrates had made room for Alcibiades when 
he saw him. On sitting down he embraced Agathon and bound 
on the fillets. 
Then Agathon said, "Take off Alcibiades' shoes, boys, so 
that he may lie down in the third place." 
"Certainly," Alcibiades said, "but who is here as our third 
fellow drinker?" And at once he turned around and saw Socra- 
tes; and as soon as he saw him he leapt up and said, "Heracles! 
What is the meaning of this? Socrates is here? Once again you 
lie in ambush; and just as is your habit, you appear suddenly 
wherever I believed you were least likely to be. And now, why 
have you come? And why did you lie down here? For it is not 
with Aristophanes, or with anyone else who is or wants to 
276 PL^TO 
bernlaughable that you lie; but you managed it so that you 
might lie down beside the most beautiful of those in this room." 
And Socrates said, "Agathon, consider! Are you going to 
defend me? The love I have of this human being has proved 
quite bothersome. For since the time that I first loved him, it is 
no longer possible for me to look at or converse with even one 
beauty; or else in jealousy and envy of me he does amazing 
things, and abuses me and hardly keeps his hands off me. Take 
care lest he do something now, and do reconcile us; or if he tries 
to use force, defend me, since I really quake with fear at his 
madness and love of lovers." 
"But," said Alcibiades, "reconciliation between you and 
me is impossible. Well, I shall take my vengeance on you for 
this at another time; but now, Agathon," he said, "spare us 
some of the fillets, so that I may wreathe this amazing head of 
his; and he need not reproach me because I wreathed you, and not 
him; for he conquers all human beings in speeches, and not just the 
day before yesterday as you did, but at all times." And at once he 
took some of the fillets, wreathed Socrates, and lay down. 
And when he lay down, he said, "All right, men. In my 
opinion you're sober. This cannot be allowed; you must drink, 
for we have agreed to it. And I choose as leader of the drinkingm 
until you have drunk enoughmyself. But let someone do the 
fetching, Agathon, if there is any large beaker. But there is no 
need really; just bring that wine cooler there, boy," he said, as he 
saw that it had a capacity of more than eight pints. Once he saw 
that it got filled he was the first to drink it off; and then, as he 
asked that it be poured for Socrates, he said, "It is no sophistic 
stratagem of mine against Socrates, men; for as much as one 
asks him to, so much he drinks off without any risk of getting 
more drunk." 
Then the boy poured and Socrates drank. And Eryximachus 
said, "What are we to do, Alcibiades? Is this to be our way, to 
say nothing at all over our cups, nor sing anything, but simply to 
drink like the thirsty?" 
Then Alcibiades said, "Eryximachus, best son of the best 
and most moderate father, hail!" 
"You too," Eryximachus said. "But what shall we do?" 
"Whatever you order. For we must obey you 
'For a physician is worth the equivalent of many others.'18 
18Homer, Iliad, 11.514. 
SYMPOSIUM 277 
Prescribe what you want." 
"Listen then," Eryximachus said. "It was our resolution 
before you entered that each of us in turn, beginning on the left, 
should make as fair a speech as he could about Eros, and 
eulogize him. Now all the rest of us have spoken; and since you 
have not spoken but have drunk up., it is just that you speak. And 
after your speech prescribe for Socrates whatever you want; and 
then let him prescribe for him on his right, and so on for the 
rest." 
"Well, Eryximachus," Alcibiades said, "what you say is 
fine, but I am afraid .it is not quite fair for a drunkard to be 
matched against the speeches of the sober. And at the same time, 
you blessed innocent, has Socrates really convinced you of 
anything he just said? Don't you know that things are exactly the 
opposite of what he was saying? For if I praise anyone other than 
himself, whether god or human being, while he is present, he 
will not keep his hands off me." 
"Hush," Socrates said. 
"No, by Poseidon," Alcibiades said. "Say nothing against 
this, since there is no one else I should praise while you were 
present." 
"Well, do so, if you want," Eryximachus said. "Praise 
Socrates." 
"What are you saying?" Alcibiades said. "Is it thought that 
I should, Eryximachus? Shall I assault the man and take ven- 
geance on him in your presence?" 
"You there," Socrates said. "What do you have in mind? 
To praise me for the sake of raising a laugh? Or what will you 
do?" 
"I shall tell the truth. See if you allow it." 
"Well, if it is the truth," he said, "I both allow and order 
you to tell it." 
"Your word is my command," Alcibiades said. "Now you 
do as follows. If I say anything that is untrue, check me in the 
middle if you want to and say in what respect I am telling a lie; 
for as far as my will goes, I shall not lie. Now if in reminiscing I 
speak of one thing and then another, don't be surprised; for it is 
not at all easy for me in the condition I am in to enumerate 
fluently and consecutively your strangeness. 
"I shall try in this way, men, to praise Socrates, through 
likenesses. Now he perhaps will suppose it is for raising a laugh; 
but the likeness will be for the sake of the truth, not for the sake 
of the laughable. I declare that he is most strictly like those 
278 PLATO 
silenuses 19 that sit in the shops of herm sculptors, the ones that 
craftsmen make holding reed pipes or flutes; and if they are split 
in two and opened up, they show that they have images of gods 
within. And I declare, in turn, that he bears a likeness to the 
satyr Marsyas. Now, that you are like them at least in looks, 
Socrates, surely not even you would dispute; and as for your 
likeness to them in other respects, just listen to what I have to 
say. You are hybristic, are you not? For if you do not agree, I 
shall get witnesses. Well, aren't you a flute player? You are 
far more marvelous, to be sure, than Marsyas. He used to 
charm human beings by means of instruments, with the power 
from his mouth, as anyone still does today who plays his flute 
songs. For I ascribe to Marsyas as what Olympus fluted since 
Marsyas had taught him; so that the songs of Olympus, whether 
a good flutist or a sorry sort of flute girl should play them, are 
the only ones---because they are divinemthat cause possession 
and reveal those who are in need of the gods and initiatory 
rituals. And you differ from him only in that you do the same 
thing with bare words without instruments. We, at any rate, 
whenever we hear the speeches of anyone elsereno matter how 
good a speaker he ismjust about no one gets concerned. But 
whenever any one of us hears you or another speaking your 
speeches, even if the speaker is very poor, regardless of whether 
a woman, man, or lad hears them, we are thunderstruck and 
possessed. I, at any rate, men, were I not going to be thought 
utterly drunk, should tell you on oath exactly how his speeches 
have affected me, and still do to this very day. For whenever I 
listen, my heart jumps far more than the Corybants', and tears 
pour out under the power of his speeches; and I see that they 
affect many many others in the same way. When I heard Pericles 
and other good speakers, I thought they spoke well, but they 
could not affect me in any way like that, nor did my soul grow 
troubled and become distressed at my slavish condition. But I 
had so often been put in this state by this Marsyas you see before 
you that I came to the opinion that it was not worth living in the 
way I am. Now, Socrates, you will not say that this is not true. 
And even now I know within myself that were I willing to lend 
ISilenus was a woodland god, depicted as an old man with the ears of a horse, 
often drunk, and riding an ass or wine jar. If caught, Silenus was supposed to reveal 
his wisdom: but nothing is known of his wisdom except that he said that it was better 
not to be born. He was associated since the sixth century with Dionysus. The sileni or 
silenuses were half-gods or spirits, with the same characteristics as Silenus, but often 
confused with the satyrs. 
SYMPOSIUM 279 
my ears, I should not be capable of holding out but should be 
affected in the same way. For he compels me to agree that, 
though I am still in need of much myself, I neglect myself and 
handle instead the affairs of the Athenians. So it was by main 
force that I stopped my ears and took off in flight, as if from the 
Sirens, in order that I might not sit here in idleness and grow old 
beside him. In regard to this human being alone have I been 
affected in a way that no one would suspect was in memto feel 
shame before anyone at all. Only before him do I feel shame. For I 
know within myself that I am incapable of contradicting him or 
of saying that what he commands must not be done; and when- 
ever I go away, I know within myself that I am doing so because 
I have succumbed to the honor I get from the many. So I have 
become a runaway and avoid him; and whenever I see him, 1 am 
ashamed of what has been agreed upon. And many is the time 
when I should see with pleasure that he is not among human 
beings; but again, if this should happen, I know well that 1 
should be much more greatly distressed. I do not know what to 
do with this human being. 
"And I and many others have been affected in such ways 
by the flute songs of this satyr here before us. But as to 
the rest, hear me tell how he is like those to whom 1 have likened 
him, and how amazing is the power he has. For know well that 
not one of you is acquainted with him; but I shall make it plain, 
inasmuch as I have started on it. You see that Socrates is eroti- 
cally inclined to the beauties and is always around them, and that 
he is thunderstruck; and again that he is ignorant of everything 
and knows nothing. Now isn't this guise of his silenic? It certainly 
is. For he has wrapped this around himself on the outside, just as 
the carved silenus; but once he is opened up, do you suspect, 
fellow drinking men, how full he is of moderation? Know that 
he's not at all concerned if someone is beautiful--and he holds 
this in such great contempt that no one would believe itany 
more than if someone is rich or has any other honor of those 
deemed blessed by the multitude. But he believes that all these 
possessions are worth nothing and that we are nothing, I tell you, 
and all his life he keeps on being ironical and playful to human 
beings. And when he is in earnest and opened up, 1 do not know 
if anyone has seen the images within; but I once saw them, and it 
was my opinion that they were so divine, golden, altogether 
beautiful, and amazing that one had to do just about whatever 
Socrates commanded. Believing him to be in earnest about my 
youthful beauty, I believed I had had a lucky find and an 
280 PLn'ro 
amazing piece of good luck: I had the chance--if I gratified 
Socrates--to hear everything that he knew; for I used to take an 
amazing amount of pride in my youthful beauty. So with this in 
mind, though I previously was not in the habit of being alone 
with him without an attendant, I then sent the attendant away and 
was alone with him. (For the whole truth must be told you, but 
pay attention, and if I lie, Socrates, try and refute me.) So I was 
alone with him alone, men; and I believed he would converse 
with me at once in just the way a lover would converse with his 
beloved in isolation, and I rejoiced. But exactly nothing of the 
sort happened; but just as he used to do, he would converse with 
me; and having spent the day with me he would take his leave. 
After this I challenged him to join me in stripping; and I stripped 
along with him. liere, I thought, I shall get my way. So he 
joined me in stripping and often wrestled with me when no one 
else was present. And what need is there to say more? I got no 
advantage from it at all. And when I made no headway in this 
manner, I resolved that the man must be set upon by force and 
not be released, since I was already committed to the attempt, 
and now I had to find out what was really the matter. I invited 
him then to join me at supper, simply as a lover plots against a 
beloved. And he did not quickly yield to me in this, but in time, 
at any rate, he was persuaded. And when he came for the first 
time, he wanted, once he had dined, to go away. And then out of 
shame I let him go; but I renewed my plottings once more. And 
this time when we had dined I kept on conversing far into the 
night; and when he wanted to 'go away, I pretended that it was 
too late and compelled him to remain. So he took his rest in the 
bed next to me on which he had dined; and no one else slept in 
the room but ourselves. Now, what I have said up to this point in 
my speech could properly be told to anyone at all. And you 
would not hear any more from me than this were it not that, first 
of all, as the saying goes, wine--with boys and without boysmis 
truthful, and in the second place, that it is patently unjust for me, 
once I have come to the point of praising Socrates, to keep 
hidden his magnificently overweening deed. Furthermore, the 
affliction of a victim of the viper's bite is also mine. For they 
say, as you know, that anyone who has been so afflicted is 
unwilling to speak of what sort of thing it is except to those who 
themselves have been bitten, since they alone will recognize it 
and pardon him if his pain brought him to the point of doing and 
saying anything. Take me, for instance. I was bitten by a more 
painful viper in the place that is most liable to pain--the heart or 
SYMPOSIUM 281 
soul or whatever name it must have--bitten and struck by philo- 
sophical speeches, which grip in a more savage way than the 
viper, whenever they get a hold on a young soul that is not 
ill-favored by nature, and make it do and say anything whatsoeverm 
and seeing in turn Phaedruses, Agathons, Eryximachuses, 
Pausaniases, Aristodemuses, as well as Aristophaneses . . . and 
what need is there to speak of Socrates and all the others? You 
all have shared in the philosophic madness and bacchic frenzyso 
accordingly you all will hear; for you will pardon the things then 
done and now said. But you house servants--and if there is anyone 
else who is profane and rusticinput large gates over your ears. 
"So, men, when the lamp was extinguished and the boys 
were outside, I resolved that I should in no way complicate the 
issue before him, but freely speak what were my opinions. And I 
nudged him and said, 'Socrates, are you asleep?' 'Certainly not,' 
he said. 'Do you know then what I have resolved?' 'What in 
particular?' he said. 'You, in my opinion,' I said, 'have proved 
to be the only deserving lover of mine; and it seems to me that 
you hesitate to mention it to me. Now I am in this state: I believe 
it is very foolish not to gratify you in this or anything else of 
minemy wealth or my friendsmthat you need; for nothing is 
more important to me than that I become the best possible; and I 
believe that, as far as I am concerned, there is no one more 
competent than you to be a fellow helper to me in this. So I 
should be far more ashamed before men of good sense for not 
gratifying a man like you than I should be before the many and 
senseless for gratifying you.' 
"And when he heard this, he said very ironically, and 
exactly as he is, and in his usual fashion, 'Really, my dear 
Alcibiades, you're no sucker if what you say about me is really 
true and there is some power in me through which you could 
become better. You must see, you know, an impossible beauty 
in me, a beauty very different from the fairness of form in 
yourself. So if, in observing my beauty, you are trying to get a 
share in it and to exchange beauty for beauty, you are intending 
to get far the better deal. For you are trying to acquire the truth 
of beautiful things in exchange for the seeming and opinion of 
beautiful things; and you really have in mind to exchange "gold 
for bronze. ,20 But, blessed one, do consider better: without your 
being aware of itel may be nothing. Thought, you know, 
begins to have keen eyesight when the sight of the eyes starts to 
decline from its peak; and you are still far from that.' 
2°Homer, Iliad, 6.236. 
282 eL^TO 
"And I heard this, and said, 'This is the way matters stand 
on my side--not one of my words has been said in a way 
different from what I think; but you yourself take whatever 
counsel you believe to be best for yourself and me.' 
"'Well,' he said, 'what you say is good; for in the future, 
after deliberating, we shall do whatever looks best to us two 
concerning these things and the rest.' 
"So I, when I had heard and said these things, and had shot 
my darts as it were, thought he had been wounded. And I got up, 
and did not allow him to speak any more, but wrapped my 
mantle around him for it was winter--and lay down under his 
blanket; and I threw my arms around this truly daemonic and 
amazing being, and lay down beside him the whole night. And 
not even in this, Socrates, will you say that I lie. But when I had 
done this, he so far prevailed over me and despised and laughed 
at my youthful beauty and committed an outrage against it (and 
in that regard I believed I was something special, men of the 
jury--for you are the judges of Socrates' arrogance) . . . for 
know well, by the gods, by the goddesses, that though I slept the 
night through with Socrates I got up without anything more 
untoward having happened than would have been the case if I had 
slept with my father or elder brother. 
"So after this, what notion do .you suppose I had? I be- 
lieved I had been dishonored, and yet I still admired his nature, 
moderation, and courage; I had met a human being whose 
prudence and endurance were such as I believed I should never 
encounter. Consequently, I did not know how I could be angry at 
him and be deprived of his association; nor did I have any 
resources whereby I could attract him. I knew well that on all 
sides--he was far more invulnerable to money than Ajax was to 
iron; and even at that one point where I believed he could be 
taken, he had escaped me. So I was in a quandary; and enslaved 
by this human being as no one has been by anyone else, I 
wandered about in distraction. Now, all this had happened to me 
earlier; and after this we went together on the expedition to 
Potidaea, and we shared our mess there. Now first of all he faced 
trials not only better than I did but better than all others. When- 
ever we were cut off somewhere and compelled to go without 
food, as happens in campaigns, the others were nothing com- 
pared to him in self-control. And again at festivities he alone was 
able to take pleasure in other things, and in drinking as well; for 
even though he wasn't willing to drink, whenever he was com- 
pelled to do so, he outdid everybody; and what is the most 
SYMPOSIUM 283 
amazing thing of all, no human being has ever seen Socrates 
drunk. Now it is my opinion that there will soon be a test of this. 
And again, in regard to resistance against the wintermfor winters 
are terrible theremall the rest that he did was amazing. And once 
when the frost was the most terrible imaginable, and no one went 
outdoors (or if any did go out, they wrapped themselves in an 
amazing number of garments and put on shoes and tied up their 
feet in felt and sheepskins), he went out among them with the 
same sort of mantle as he wore at any time, and without shoes he 
marched through the ice more easily than the others did shod; 
and the soldiers looked askance at him as if he were despising 
them. And that is the way things were. 
"'What sort of thing the strong man did and dared '21 there 
on campaign once, is worth hearing. Once, he had gotten a 
thought, and he stood on the same spot from dawn on, consider- 
ing it; and when he made no progress, he did not let up but stood 
searching. And it was already noon, and the men became aware 
of it; and in amazement one said to another that Socrates had 
stood there in reflection since dawn. And finally some Ionians, 
when it was evening and they had dined for it was then summerm 
brought out their pallets and slept in the cold and watched to see 
if he would also stand during the night. And he stood until it was 
dawn and the sun came up; and then having made a prayer to the 
sun he went away. And in combat, if you want to hear about 
it--for it is just to credit him with this once when there was a 
battle for which the generals gave me the prize of excellence, no 
other human being saved me but he; for he was not willing to 
leave me wounded, but saved both myself and my weapons. And 
I even then, Socrates, asked the generals to offer you the prize of 
excellence. And in this too you will not blame me and say that I 
lie; but as a matter of fact, when the generals looked to my rank 
and wanted to offer me the prize of excellence, you proved more 
eager than the generals that I take it rather than yourself. Further- 
more, men, it was worthwhile to behold Socrates when the army 
retreated in flight from Delium; for I happened to be there on 
horseback and he was a hoplite. The soldiers were then in rout, 
and while he and Laches were retreating together, I came upon 
them by chance. And as soon as I saw them, I at once urged the 
two of them to take heart, and I said I would not leave them 
behind. I had an even finer opportunity to observe Socrates there 
than I had had at Potidaea, for I was less in fear because I was on 
21Homer, Odyssey, 4.242, 271. 
284 PLATO 
horseback. First of all, how much more sensible he was than 
Laches; and secondly, it was my opinion, Aristophanes (and this 
point is yours); that walking there just as he does here in Athens, 
'stalking like a pelican, his eyes darting from side to side, '22 
quietly on the lookout for friends and foes, he made it plain to 
everyone even at a great distance that if one touches this real 
man, he will defend himself vigorously. Consequently, he went 
away safely, both he and his comrade; for when you behave in 
war as he did, then they just about do not even touch you; 
instead they pursue those who turn in headlong flight. 
"Now, one could praise Socrates for many other amazing 
things; but whereas for the rest of his pursuits--one might 
perhaps say the like about someone else as well--what deserves 
all wonder is that respect in which he is like no human being, 
neither the ancients nor those of the present day. For one might 
liken Brasidas and others to such a one as Achilles was; and, in 
turn, liken the sort that Pericles was to both Nestor and Antenor 
(and there are others as well); and of the rest one might make 
likenesses in the same way. But the sort that this human being in 
his strangeness proved to be, both in himself and in his speeches, 
one could not even come close to finding, whether one looked 
among the men of today or among the ancients; unless, after all, 
one were to liken him in himself and in his speeches to those I 
sayinto no human being but to silenuses and satyrs. 
"And what is more, I omitted to say at the beginning that 
his speeches too are most like the silenuses when opened up. For 
were one willing to hear Socrates' speeches, they would at first 
look altogether laughable. The words and phrases that they wrap 
around themselves on the outside are like that, the very hide of a 
hybristic satyr. 23 For he talks of pack-asses, blacksmiths, shoe- 
makers, and tanners, and it looks as if he is always saying the 
same things through the same things; and hence every inexperi- 
enced and foolish human being would laugh at his speeches. But 
if one sees them opened up and gets oneself inside them, one 
will find, first, that they alone of speeches have sense inside; 
and, second, that they are most divine and have the largest 
number of images of virtue in them; and that they apply to the 
largest area, indeed to the whole area that it is proper to examine 
for one who is going to be beautiful and good. 
"Here, men, is what I praise Socrates for; and I mixed in 
with it what, in turn, I blame him for, when I told you how he 
22Aristophanes, Clouds, 362. 
2'An allusion to the flaying of Marsyas by Apollo. 
SYMPOSIUM 285 
committed an outrage against me. And what is more, he not only 
did this to me, but to Charmides the son of Glaucon, Euthydemus 
the son of Diocles, and many many others--for while deceiving 
them into thinking of him as the lover, he brings it about that he 
is the beloved rather than the lover. It is this that I am telling 
you, Agathon. Do not be deceived by him; but with the knowl- 
edge of our afflictions be on your guard, and do not, as in the 
proverb, like a fool realize it after you have suffered." 
When Alcibiades said this, there was laughter at his outspo- 
kenness because it was thought that he was still erotically in- 
clined toward Socrates. Then Socrates said, "You are sober, 
in my opinion, Alcibiades, for otherwise you would never 
have so elegantly cast a screen about yourself and tried to 
conceal why you said all this; for you spoke of it as if it 
were a side-issue by inserting it at the end, as though you 
had not said everything for its sake---to set Agathon and me 
at odds, believing that I must love you and no one else, and that 
Agathon must be loved by you and by no one else. But you did 
not get away with it; this satyr and silenic drama of yours was 
quite obvious. Well, my dear Agathon, see that he does not get 
the advantagemand prepare yourself against anyone setting you 
and me at odds." 
Then Agathon said, "Why, Socrates, I am afraid that what 
you say is true. My evidence is the fact that he lay down 
between you and me so that he may hold us apart. Well, he 
will not get the advantage, but I shall come and lie down 
beside you." 
"Yes," Socrates said, "do come lie down in the place 
beside me." 
"Zeus!" Alcibiades said. "What the fellow does to me! He 
believes he must surpass me everywhere. Well, if nothing else, 
you wondrous being, let Agathon lie down between us." 
"But that is impossible," Socrates said. "For you praised 
me, and I in turn must praise the one on the right; surely if 
Agathon lies down next to you, he will not praise me again, will 
he, before he has been praised by me? But leave it as it is, 
daemonic being, and do not begrudge the lad's being eulogized 
by me, for I want very much to sing his praises." 
"Now I get it, Alcibiades," Agathon said. "It is impossible 
for me to remain here; and I shall not fail to change my place so 
that I may be praised by Socrates." 
"This is the usual thing," Alcibiades said. "When Socrates 
is present it is impossible for someone else to get hold of the 
PLATO SYMPOSIUM 
286 
beauties, just as now you see how resourcefully he has found a 
persuasive argument to get Agathon to lie down beside him." 
Now Agathon got up to lie down beside Socrates; but 
suddenly a large crowd of revelers came to the door; and finding 
it openmsomeone had gone outmthey walked straight in among 
the guests and lay down. And everything was full of commotion, 
and everybody was compelledrebut no longer with any orderto 
drink a great deal of wine. Now Aristodemus said that Eryximachus, 
Phaedrus, and some others went away, but he himself was 
overtaken by sleep. And he slept very deeply, because the night 
was far gone and the cocks were already singing when he woke 
toward daybreak. And on awakening he saw that the rest were 
sleeping or had gone away; but Agathon, Aristophanes, and 
Socrates were the only ones who were still awake, and they were 
drinking from a large cup, passing it from left to right. Socrates 
was conversing with them. And Aristodemus said, he did not 
remember the other points of the speechesfor he was not only 
absent at the start, but was dozing--however, the chief point, he 
said, was that Socrates was compelling them to agree that the 
same man should know how to make comedy and tragedy; and 
that he who is by art a tragic poet is also a comic poet. They 
were compelled to admit this, though they were not following 
too well and were nodding. Aristophanes went to sleep first, and 
then, when it was already day, Agathon. Then Socrates, having 
put them to bed, got up and went away, and he (Aristodemus) 
followed, just as he was accustomed to; and Socrates went to the 
Lyceum, washed up, and spent the rest of his day just as he did 
at any other time. And once he had passed the time in this way, 
toward evening he took his rest at home.